Brief Fact Summary.
Aspinall (plaintiff) brought suit against McDonald Douglas Corp (defendant) for wrongful death.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
In order to recover for a claim of wrongful death the beneficiary must be ones that are named in the wrongful death statute.
The use of the word heirs in section 377 has been narrowly interpreted as limiting this class of persons to those who would have been eligible to inherit from the decedent's estate had he died intestate.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff brought suit against defendant for wrongful death stemming from a plane crash. Plaintiff was not married to the decedent but he had made her the beneficiary of his will. Plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the aircraft that caused the victims death. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff had no standing to sue because under the applicable wrongful death, it is required the plaintiff and her children must be the victims heirs.
Whether in order to recover for a claim of wrongful death the beneficiary must be ones that are named in the wrongful death statute.
Yes. In order to recover for a claim of wrongful death the beneficiary must be ones that are named in the wrongful death statute.
Traditionally, under common law, plaintiffs could not recover for a tort that caused death, but more recently states have enacted statutes that do allow recovery in these situations. While the present statute does allow recover for damages stemming from a death caused by a tort, the statute is limited to the heirs of the decedent which is defined as anyone who would have inherited from the decedent. Because the plaintiff in this case would not have inherited from the victim when he died, they cannot recover or bring a cause of action for wrongful death.