A dead person cannot sue. But it is possible for the estate or heirs of a deceased individual to bring certain legal claims.
Fayetteville, AR -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/02/2020 --In Arkansas, there are two such claims: a survival action and a wrongful death lawsuit. A survival action refers to the personal injury claims the deceased could have brought if they were still alive. In contrast, wrongful death allows the deceased person's survivors to seek compensation from a negligent party in connection with the death.
On January 31, 2020, a federal judge in El Dorado, Ark., dismissed one attempt to bring both a survival action and a wrongful death lawsuit against John Deere.
The case involved the death of Darryl Jackson, a farmer from Ashley County. On August 28, 2018, Jackson died while harvesting corn. At the time he was using a combine harvester manufactured by John Deere.
In May 2019, Jackson's son, Darryl Gibbs, was named administrator of his father's estate. The probate court determined Gibbs and Leakeasha Spikes were Jackson's only children and heirs. Gibbs proceeded to file a wrongful death and survival claims against John Deere. Specifically, Gibbs alleged the Deere harvester malfunctioned and caused Jackson's death.
One month later, another wrongful death and survival action was filed by Keith Walker.
Walker claimed he was also a child of Jackson. John Deere moved to dismiss Walker's lawsuit, asserting he lacked legal "standing" to bring such claims. U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. The original Gibbs lawsuit remains pending.
Fayetteville AR wrongful death lawyer J. Timothy Smith explained why Walker's lawsuit never made it out of the starting gate.
"In Arkansas, only the personal representative or administrator of an estate can bring a survival claim. Here, that was Gibbs, not Walker. Similarly, only the personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If there is no estate, only then could the heirs–in this case the children of Darryl Jackson–directly file a wrongful death lawsuit."
Smith added it was important for family members to get on the same page before taking legal action.
"Children understandably want to hold negligent companies accountable for the death of a parent. But there are specific procedures that must be followed. An individual child does not have an automatic right to file a lawsuit. Instead, it is important to first establish an estate for the parent and work through a personal representative."