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Question remains as to whether son is ‘child’ under Wrongful Death Statute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the defendants on two parents’ claims under the Child Wrongful Death Statute regarding their 21-year-old son who died in a car accident. The appellate court found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the informal apprenticeship the son was participating in at the time of his death would be considered a vocational program under the CWDS.

Matthew Longest and his father Robert were involved in a car accident in 1998 with Lisa Sledge, resulting in Matthew Longest’s death and injuries to Robert Longest. The father, his wife Maribel – who is now deceased – and the son’s estate sued Sledge under the Child Wrongful Death Statute and the General Wrongful Death Statute, as well as sued for the father’s injuries and the mother’s loss of consortium. At the time of his death, Matthew Longest was studying under his father to be a journeyman mason through an informal, non-union apprentice.

The defendants sought partial summary judgment that the parents’ claims under the GWDS were limited to funeral, medical and administrative expenses because they were not their son’s dependent next of kin. The defendants also argued that Matthew Longest wasn’t a child under the CWDS because he wasn’t enrolled in a vocational program as required under the statute. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants on these issues.

In Matthew Longest, Deceased, by Robert Longest, Adm. & Parent of Matthew Longest, & Robert Longest, Jr. Adm. of Maribel Longest, Deceased v. Lisa M. Sledge, minor & Roger Brown & Donna Sledge, 47A05-1211-CT-594, the Court of Appeals reversed regarding the claims under the CWDS, rejecting the defendants’ argument that Matthew Longest had to be enrolled in a formal program that incorporated some component of traditional classroom instruction. Thus, there is a question as to whether the son is considered a child under the CWDS.

The judges affirmed the ruling in favor of the defendants that Matthew Longest’s parents weren’t his dependent next of kin. The parents were unable to prove that although the son was living at home and paying rent to his parents, as well as performing household chores, this qualified as even a partial dependency on him by the parents. The COA concluded the son’s actions were the sort of kindness one expected of a son living under his parents’ roof.

The judges also affirmed the trial court’s decision to reduce the attorney fees awarded to the Longests to one-fourth of the total amount performed for the four claims they brought, as attorney fees were only awardable to the estate of Matthew Longest on its claim.
 
 

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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