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Grandmother can’t bring child wrongful death suit, COA rules

May 16, 2018

A woman who claimed to be her grandson’s de facto custodian failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that she had standing to bring a suit on the child’s behalf after he and his mother perished in an apartment fire.

Linsey Parsley and her 3-year-old son, Robert, were living in a Jasper apartment with Alex Snedeker on Nov. 26, 2014, when all three died in a fire. Linsey’s mother, Lillian Parsley, was appointed personal representative of Linsey’s estate. Lillian filed sued multiple defendants on her daughter’s behalf under the Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Statute, and separately on her grandson’s behalf under the Indiana Child Wrongful Death Statute.

The Dubois Superior Court dismissed Lillian’s suit, finding she lacked standing to pursue it on her grandson’s behalf. An appellate panel agreed Wednesday in Lillian Parsley, as the Guardian, Grandparent, and Next Friend of Robert Parsley, Deceased v. MGA Family Group, Inc., H Properties LLP, Mark Snedeker, and Video Tech/Direct Maytag HAC,19A01-1707-CT-1535.

Writing for the majority, Senior Judge John Sharpnack concluded that Lillian’s argument that she provided most of Robert’s care and support was insufficient for her to gain standing under the Child Wrongful Death Statute.

“Examining the statutes that define the term ‘guardian’ and ‘protected person’ and applying those definitions to the CWDS, it is apparent that our General Assembly intended a guardian to be someone appointed by the court to be responsible for the care of a particular person or that person’s property. Lillian was never appointed by a court to be Robert’s guardian. Although it is clear Lillian has sustained a loss in the death of her grandson, she simply does not meet the statutory requirement to maintain an action. It is not for us to rewrite or amend the statute. As such, she does not fall within the meaning of ‘guardian’ as contemplated by the CWDS, and she is not entitled to maintain an action under the CWDS as Robert’s guardian,” Sharpnack wrote for the court in affirming dismissal of the suit.

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