Broken Families Make for Complicated Wrongful Death Claims, per the Middle Section

Court: TN Court of Appeals


James S. Higgins, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellants, James Denzmore.

Dana C. Holloway and David A. Chapman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellees, United Parcel Service, Inc. and Jason Sanders.

H. Anthony Duncan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Latony Baugh.


Shortly after the mother of four children was killed in an accident, her husband instituted an action to recover damages for her death; the father of the children moved to intervene in the action and for the court to hold a hearing on whether the husband had abandoned the mother, thereby waiving his right as surviving spouse to participate in the wrongful death action. The trial court did not hold a hearing; rather, it held that the husband was the proper party to pursue the action, allowed the Guardian of the children to represent the interest of the children in the action, and dismissed Father’s petition. The surviving spouse, Guardian and tortfeasor subsequently petitioned the court for approval of a settlement of the wrongful death claim; the court granted the petition. Father appeals, contending that the court erred in failing to hold a hearing on the issue of whether the husband was estranged from the mother, in approving the settlement, and in placing the settlement documents under seal. We remand the case for a hearing on whether the husband waived his right as surviving spouse to participate in the wrongful death action and reverse the court’s placement of the settlement documents under seal; in all other respects the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

.PDF Version of Case

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Baugh v. UPS- Right of spouse who has abandoned...

In Baugh the Court of Appeals affirms the settlement entered into by the father. However, the statute provides the father, if he has abandoned has no right to even pursue the wrongful death action. I am wondering if the the only thing that held this settlement valid is the involvement of the Guardian ad Litem. In the absence of the Guardian you probably have an invalid settlement, and if the settlement is invalid would the cause of action be subject to dismissal for being brought by an improper party? Or could the court substitute a proper party?