Mom’s Financial Independence Blocks Effort to Sue Over Son’s Construction Accident Death

Succeeding in personal injury cases involves more than just having strong evidence about the injury itself. In a recent case, a mother’s wrongful death suit against an energy company failed, not as a result of a lack of proof regarding her son’s accident, but because California law prevented her from bringing such a legal action based upon her son’s injuries. The ruling highlights the importance of meeting all of the evidentiary requirements needed to pursue a wrongful death case.

James Bean was working on a solar panel construction job at a building leased by Southern California Edison Company when he fell through a skylight and landed on a concrete floor 37 feet below. Bean died from his injuries. Shirley Hill, Bean’s mother, sued the company for her son’s wrongful death. The company asked the trial court to throw out the case because the mother lacked standing, which is the legal capacity to bring a particular lawsuit. The trial court ruled for the company, concluding that the mother was not financially dependent on the son, as required in order for a parent to bring a wrongful death action based upon a child’s death.

The California Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court (downloadable doc). The court noted that the only proof she had to back up her claim of financial dependence on the son was her having lived with the son from 1998-2001 following her divorce, his purchase of meals and cigarettes for her, and his occasional gifts of cash to her that she used to pay bills.

While the mother was sufficiently dependent during 1998-2001, she ceased being dependent when she moved from the son’s home and into her daughter’s home. The son’s provision of meals, cigarettes and small sums of cash were not enough. The court explained that, to amount to financial support, the parent must need the support the child supplies. In the mother’s case, her testimony made it clear that the son’s gifts of cash, while spent on bills, were unexpected and she would have paid her bills with her own money had she not received the son’s cash. The law does not require total dependence but the small amounts the mother received, along with her testimony that she was not expecting any more money from the son when her died, made it clear that the mother was financially independent of the son.

No one wants to endure the double pain of suffering an injury (or an injured loved one,) and then losing in court. In Hill’s case, even a mountain of evidence about the son’s accident would have been meaningless as the law did not give her the standing to sue.  Before you decide to pursue an injury lawsuit, you should consult a legal professional about your case and whether you have the factual evidence and legal qualifications to succeed. The Oakland personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch have a wealth of skill and experience when it comes to handling these cases, and can give you an honest and knowledgeable assessment of your case. Contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More blogs:

Tenant’s Failure to Use Existing Lighting Unravels Slip-and-Fall Injury Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Nov. 30, 2013

Trucker’s Improper Interstate Stop Results in Fiery Crash, $150M Wrongful Death Judgment, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Oct. 30, 2013

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