Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling limits award arising out of wrongful death suit.
This week, Georgia’s Supreme Court issued a ruling which limited the amount of damages awarded to the family of a victim in a wrongful death suit. The case arose after Sparkle Reid was killed in a murder for hire plot in 2000. She was killed in the presence of her five month old daughter while her husband, Rajeeve Rai, was at work. The couple had married a month prior to the killing. After Sparkle’s death, her father, Bennet Reid, took custody the baby and eventually adopted her. Rajeeve abandoned the baby and did not challenge the adoption.
The victim in the wrongful death action was killed in a murder for hire plot.
Sparkle’s murder remained unsolved until 2004 when someone identified her killers and informed law enforcement that they were hired by Rajeeve’s father, Chiman Rai. Chiman was subsequently convicted of murder.
Bennet sued Chiman for wrongful death on behalf of Sparkle’s daughter and for Sparkle’s pain and suffering. The trial court awarded Bennet’s grandchild $2.5 million for wrongful death and $100,000 to Sparkle’s estate for her pain and suffering.
The Supreme Court’s ruling determined that the murder for hire plot did not constitute fraud and therefore the pain and suffering award was time barred.
Chiman appealed the ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals. At issue was whether the murder for hire plot involved fraud. If not, the pain and suffering award would be time barred. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision.
However, last week, Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled that Sparkle’s estate cannot collect the $100,000 award for pain and suffering because the murder for hire plot did not involve fraud. As a result, a two year statute of limitations applied to the claim which had already elapsed.
State laws specify who can bring a wrongful death action on behalf of a decedent.
Each state has specific statutes that articulate what parties can file a wrongful death action on a decedent’s behalf. Under Georgia law, a surviving spouse of the deceased individual can bring a wrongful death action on their behalf. If no surviving spouse exists, then the decedent’s surviving children may file a wrongful death action. In the event that the decedent has neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, their surviving parents may pursue a wrongful death action. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, children, or parents, then the administrator of the decedent’s estate may file wrongful death action.
If your loved one has been killed as a result of another party’s negligence, you should consult with an attorney immediately. An attorney can help you determine whether you are entitled to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.