Court should decide if nephew is uncle’s dependent next of kin

October 26, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the driver in a deadly car accident on the decedent’s nephew’s wrongful death action, finding questions exist as to whether the nephew is his uncle’s dependent next of kin.

Edward Lomax lived with his nephew, Robbie Lomax and his wife, and regularly would contribute financially to household expenses, even when Robbie worked, and helped take care of his nephew’s animals. Edward was his nephew’s last living relative on his father’s side. The uncle was killed while riding his bicycle in 2010 after he was struck from behind by a vehicle operated by Jennie Michael.

Robbie brought a wrongful death action against Michael, alleging he was his uncle’s dependent next of kin. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to Michael on this issue, concluding the evidence didn’t establish Robbie as a dependent next of kin for purposes of the General Wrongful Death Statute.

The Court of Appeals reversed in Robbie Lomax v. Jennie L. Michael, 12A05-1503-CT-124, finding the case to be similar to Necessary v. Inter-State Towing, 697 N.E.2d 73 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), trans. denied, in which the decedent’s son filed a wrongful death action after his mother was killed in an automobile accident. The mother lived with her son and grandson for several years before her death and they shared household expenses.

“Given the facts as designated to the court, a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Robbie was dependent on Edward, at least in part, or that Robbie was not, in fact, a dependent next of kin to Edward,” Judge Robert Altice wrote in remanding the matter for further proceedings.


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