I’ve seen some strange lawsuits in my time, but a woman suing herself on behalf of her husband’s estate over a fatal car accident she says she negligently caused? That’s a new one.
The Utah Court of Appeals has given Barbara Bagley the go-ahead to proceed with a wrongful-death lawsuit against herself for alleged negligence in an accident that killed her spouse.
Bagley, as personal representative of the estate of her late husband, is suing driver Bagley, whose interests in the case are represented by her insurance carrier, according to the appeals court ruling. She seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages that include medical and funeral expenses; loss of past and future financial support; the physical pain her husband, Bradley Vom Baur, suffered before he died from his injuries; and the loss of his love and companionship.
the personal representative of the estate bit seems to be the most important part here. While typically (at least this is how it’s supposed to work) you’re not supposed to be able to use the courts to gain from your own negligence, as administrator of her late husband’s affairs she has a responsibility to collect any debts or damages that may be owed him, even if those damages would have to come out of her pocket or more likely, the pocket of her insurance company on her behalf.
Mark Rose and Reid Tateoka, the attorneys representing the widow in her capacity as personal representative, said Bagley sued to meet her legal responsibility to act to benefit the estate, not herself. By law, creditors will have to be paid before Bagley, as her husband’s sole heir, could get any money from the estate.
“She can’t, by law, look out for herself,” Tateoka said Tuesday. “She has to look out for the estate.”
That actually makes sense, though depending on the size of any judgment she may receive and the legal fees/debts that need to be paid first, she could still come out the other side having made some money, which isn’t legal or at least it wasn’t until maybe right now.
Lawyers representing driver Bagley in the wrongful-death suit point out that in similar scenarios in other states, courts have held that allowing those at fault to recover damages would be unjust.
“Further, if this suit is allowed to continue, a jury would be asked to determine whether Barbara Bagley’s fault caused Barbara Bagley’s own harm,” attorneys Peter Christensen and Kathryn Tunacik Smith said in a motion to dismiss the suit. “The jury would be asked to determine how much money will fairly compensate Barbara Bagley for the harm she caused herself. The jury will be highly confused — it cannot order a person to compensate herself.”
That also makes sense. more of it than the other argument does, I think.
Driver Bagley’s lawyers hadn’t yet decided at the time this article was written whether or not they would appeal the matter to the state’s Supreme Court. Personally, I’d go for it since there’s a lot that needs to be cleared up here, mainly how you prevent somebody otherwise legally entitled to damages from profiting off her own crime if she wins. Which principle is technically and morally more important? Pretty sure I know how I’d rule, but I’m glad I’m not a judge.