ILNews

Judges disagree on whether Rhode Island law applies in wrongful death case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A Court of Appeals judge dissented from her colleagues’ decision that Rhode Island law should apply in awarding a wrongful death settlement because she believed that the Rhode Island court would have found Indiana law applies.

Eddie G. Showley, as executor of the estate of Phillip J. Showley, appealed a trial court order distributing wrongful death proceeds to Tracey Kelsey, individually and as successor personal representative of the estate of Sonya Sue Showley. Eddie Showley is Phillip’s adult son; Kelsey is Sonya Showley’s adult daughter.

Sonya Showley died in 2006 in Indiana due to a defective hernia patch, which was made by a Rhode Island company. Phillip Showley became administrator of his wife’s estate and pursued a wrongful death action, but he died while the action was pending in Rhode Island. Kelsey, now administrator of her mother’s estate, accepted a $292,500 wrongful death entitlement as a settlement and sought partial distribution of the award. The Indiana trial court awarded her the wrongful death settlement as the sole surviving beneficiary of Sonya’s estate pursuant to the laws of Rhode Island. Eddie Showley claimed that the wrongful death proceeds should have been distributed pursuant to I.C 34-23-1-1 and thus, Phillip Showley’s estate would have been the sole beneficiary.

Relying on Matter of Estate of Bruck, 632 N.E.2d 745 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), in which the COA approved the distribution of wrongful death proceeds in accordance with Ohio law, the majority affirmed the distribution to Kelsey based on Rhode Island law in Eddie G. Showley, Executor, Estate of Phillip J. Showley v. Tracey Kelsey, Individually and as Successor Personal Representative of the Estate of Sonya Sue Showley, 09A04-1301-ES-22.

“Phillip, as initial administrator of Sonya’s estate, filed a suit for wrongful death based on the laws of Rhode Island. In his complaint, Phillip requested to be awarded punitive damages for Sonya’s wrongful death. Pursuant to Rhode Island, punitive damages are permitted under the wrongful death statute, whereas this award cannot be made under Indiana law,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

“Because a recovery only exists under the law of Rhode Island, its distribution cannot be separated and must be enforced in accordance with Rhode Island statute in order to preserve the integrity of the underlying substantive right.”

In her dissent, Judge Elaine Brown believed lex loci delicti should control distribution of the proceeds instead of the significant relationship test.

“Indeed, my review of applicable Rhode Island law reveals that, had this matter proceeded to trial, the Rhode Island court would have decided to apply Indiana’s wrongful death statute,” she wrote. “Thus, Eddie, as Philip’s sole heir, is entitled to Philip’s share of the proceeds of Showley’s settlement, which is the remainder of the settlement proceeds after payment to Showley’s estate of ‘reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expense[s],’ Ind. Code § 34-23-1-1, because Kelsey did not demonstrate that she is a dependent child.”

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

ADVERTISEMENT