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Do You Have to Sue Yourself Sometimes?

Published February 1, 2017 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC

Utah case highlights the responsibility of estate executors and personal representatives who have a duty to the estate that could include suing themselves.

The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discussed a Utah case that involved someone suing themselves and the pursuit of a wrongful death lawsuit in “Case Summary on Suing Yourself as Personal Representative for Wrongful Death.”

The Utah case showed some interesting results that occurred when a man died in a one-vehicle accident while his common law wife was driving. The wife was the man’s sole heir and was named the personal representative of his estate. In that capacity, on behalf of the estate, she filed a lawsuit against herself for wrongful death. Then, in her capacity as an individual and the defendant in the wrongful death case, she moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that she could not sue herself.

The trial court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of public policy that prevents someone from suing themselves. However, the Utah Supreme Court reversed that and allowed the wrongful death lawsuit to continue.

At first glance, this might seem ridiculous and pointless, since the woman is the sole heir. Even if the estate collects money from the lawsuit, it would just go to her. However, there are a couple of things that could be going on here.

Before any heirs receive their inheritances from the estate, any debts of the deceased have to be paid. It could be that the estate cannot cover the man’s debts, unless judgment is obtained against the woman.

Another possibility is that the woman had insurance at the time of the accident. In that case, the insurance company might be required to indemnify her, if she is held liable for wrongful death.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 22, 2016) “Case Summary on Suing Yourself as Personal Representative for Wrongful Death

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