When a person is killed due to someone else’s negligence, their loved ones may be able to pursue Washington wrongful death and survivorship claims. Survivorship claims and wrongful death claims are similar, but not identical. A Washington appeals court recently considered whether a judgment in a survivorship claim precluded a wrongful death action.
The deceased sued several defendants after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She settled with all but one of the defendants during trial, releasing all claims arising out of her personal injury claim and any future wrongful death claim. The remaining claim was converted to a survivorship claim after she died during trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the estate, but the court reduced it on a motion from the defendant. The court also allocated 20% of the settlement proceeds to future wrongful death claims. The court also reduced the judgment by 80% to offset the proceeds from the settling defendants. Both parties appealed and the appeals court affirmed the verdict, but reversed the reduction.
The estate filed a wrongful death action against several defendants. The trial court dismissed, finding the claims had been extinguished by the judgment in the survivorship case. The estate appealed, arguing a wrongful death claim is a new and distinct cause of action.