Legal Memorandum: Parties in a Wrongful Death Action

Issue: Under Wyoming law, who can join a wrongful death action?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Wrongful death action; Joinder of parties
Jurisdiction: Wyoming
Cited Cases: 772 P.2d 1054; 425 P.2d 66; 765 P.2d 1353
Cited Statutes: Wyo. Stat. § 1-38-102(c); Wyo. Stat. § 1-38-102(b); Wyo. R. Civ. P. 19(a); Wyo. R. Civ. P. 19(b); Wyo. R. Civ. P. 19(c); Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-114; Wyo. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4)
Date: 02/01/2001

           In Butler, the court held that “the persons for whose benefit a wrongful death action is brought are all of those persons identified in § 2-4-101.”  Butler v. Halstead ex rel. Colley, 770 P.2d 698, 700 (Wyo. 1989).  This includes not only spouses, children, parents and siblings, but “grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.  In our judgment, extending to those related persons the opportunity to participate in a wrongful death action does not unduly extend the class of persons for whose benefit such actions may be brought to the point that it would be unmanageable.”  Id.  Further, distribution of the proceeds of the action will not be controlled by the probate code, but by the wrongful death act:  “Whether any such recoveries will be subject to the payment of debts will be controlled by the provisions of § 1-38-102(b), and the distribution of any proceeds will be controlled by § 1-38-102(c), not by § 2-4-101.”  Id.  This statement clearly contemplates one proceeding in which all proper parties-plaintiff are included and allocations among them made by the jury or court pursuant to § 1-38-102(c), which provides that:

[t]he court or jury, as the case may be, in every such action may award such damages, pecuniary and exemplary, as shall be deemed fair and just.  Every person for whose benefit such action is brought may prove his respective damages, and […]

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