Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Child has a claim for wrongful death even though father died before child was born

The ABA Journal is reporting (with links to more information) that the Iowa Supreme Court has decided that a child whose father died before she was born can sue for loss of companionship in a wrongful death case. Similar opinions have been published in

This is an interesting question that I know a little bit about.  One of the very first cases I ever handled as a young lawyer in private practice involved the same issue.  In my case, a couple were expecting a child when the father was killed by a negligent driver in an accident.  The child was later born without incident and the mother hired our firm to represent her in a claim against the driver.  We included a claim for the child based on wrongful death.  Like in the case in Iowa, the defendant argued that the child could not claim to have suffered an injury since the child never met the father (along the lines of you can't miss what you never had to begin with).  I prepared a brief in reply to the motion to dismiss and won, and the case settled soon after that.

I had not looked into the issue since then, so now I am interested in catching up to see what has been written about it.  Apparently, in addition to the case in Iowa, there are other reported decisions in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. I will add them to my summer reading list.

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