Georgia Family Battles Over Wrongful Death Damages
The parents of a teenager who died in an accident involving a police car in 2007, is likely to appeal his wrongful death verdict in the Georgia Supreme Court, in a case that has received nationwide attention for its unusual nature.
In October 2007, 16-year-old Byron Trent Pyles died in a car crash involving a police car. His parents, Rebecca Lynne DeVent and Byron Keith Pyles filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Henry County against the Locust Grove police officer involved in the accident, and the police department.
It would have been a regular wrongful death lawsuit, except that 5 months after Trent died, a teenager named Heidi Flora gave birth to his daughter, named Allison Trent Flora. Before Allison was born, Heidi’s mother Hannelore Flora asked for a ruling that the child was the only heir of the deceased, and therefore, had sole rights over damages after his death. Trent’s family initially disputed Allison’s paternity, but later tests proved that Trent was indeed Allison’s father.
However, the parents continued to dispute Flora’s claim that the child was the sole claimant in Trent’s death. The family’s lawyers argued for Allison to meet the definition of a "survivor child."Under Georgia’s wrongful death laws, Flora’s lawyers needed to prove that the baby was capable of movement in the mother’s womb, during Trent’s death. Georgia’s laws place that time as falling between the 10th week and fourth month of pregnancy. The parents lost the case after the Henry County Superior Court ruled in favor of Flora. The Georgia Court of Appeals followed likewise. They are now looking at the Supreme Court for justice.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Georgia?
Georgia’s laws allow survivors to claim wrongful death damages for the negligence of another, in order of priority. The surviving spouse of the deceased may file a lawsuit, and in his or her absence, the children of the deceased may be eligible for recovery. If the deceased died without any children, only then can the parents of the deceased file a wrongful death lawsuit.