Peculiarities of Connecticut’s wrongful-death statute

Friday April 4, 2014

Atticus bookstore has been a fixture in New Haven for many years. It is named after a patron of the arts in classical Rome to whom the famous orator Cicero dedicated a notable treatise on friendship.

Friendship is of course a status whose value is arguably priceless. Indeed, many people willingly admit they are closer to their friends than to their families.

In this post, we will consider how that peculiar alignment of affinities might affect wrongful death actions in Connecticut.

Nationally, most people probably believe that you have to be a family member in order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death is generally defined as one caused by a negligent or otherwise wrongful act or omission of another.

As we noted in our article on wrongful death, however, Connecticut law is different from most states in the procedure for pursuing such a lawsuit.

In most states, surviving family members are able to bring wrongful death suits directly. In Connecticut, by contrast, such actions may only be initiated by the personal representative (executor) who has been designated to handle the estate of the person who died.

This means that, in Connecticut, there can only be one wrongful death lawsuit in a case – not multiple actions initiated by different family members.

As we explained in our article, whatever is gained in the wrongful death lawsuit is divided and distributed as directed in the deceased person’s will. If there was no will, the intestacy statue comes in play.

But if there was a will, it is at least conceivable that a friend of the decedent could recover in a wrongful death action. In other words, in Connecticut, a wrongful death suit is not necessarily synonymous with surviving family members.

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