Senate Bill No. 612
(By Senator Chafin)
[Introduced February 16, 2012; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §55-7-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to the distribution of damage awards in wrongful death actions; removing those who would be equitably entitled to share in the distribution; and notice to heirs of distribution hearing.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §55-7-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 7. ACTIONS FOR INJURIES.
§55-7-6. By whom action for wrongful death to be brought; amount and distribution of damages; period of limitation.
(a) Every such wrongful death action shall be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of such deceased person who has been duly appointed in this state or in any other state, territory or district of the United States or in any foreign country. and Notwithstanding any code provision to the contrary, the amount recovered in every such action shall be recovered by said personal representative and be distributed in accordance herewith. with this section. If the personal representative was duly appointed in another state, territory or district of the United States or in any foreign country, such personal representative shall, at the time of filing of the complaint, post bond with a corporate surety thereon authorized to do business in this state in the sum of $100 conditioned with the condition that such personal representative shall pay all costs adjudged against him or her and that he or she shall comply with the provisions of this section. The circuit court may increase or decrease the amount of said bond for good cause.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, in every such action for wrongful death, the jury or, in a case tried without a jury, the court may award such damages as to it may seem as seems fair and just and may direct in what proportions the damages shall be distributed to the surviving spouse and children, including adopted children and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents and any persons who were financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of his or her death or would otherwise be equitably entitled to share in such distribution after making provision for those expenditures, if any, specified in subdivision (2), subsection (c) of this section. If there are no such survivors, then the damages shall be distributed in accordance with the decedent's will or, if there is no will, in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution as set forth in chapter forty-two of this code. If the jury renders only a general verdict on damages and does not provide for the distribution thereof, the court shall distribute the damages in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.
(c) (1) The verdict of the jury shall include, but may not be is not limited to, damages for the following:
(A) Sorrow, mental anguish and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent;
(B) Compensation for reasonably expected loss of: (i) Income of the decedent; and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent;
(C) Expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death; and
(D) Reasonable funeral expenses.
(2) In its verdict the jury shall set forth separately the amount of damages, if any, awarded by it for reasonable funeral, hospital, medical and said other expenses incurred as a result of the wrongful act, neglect or default of the defendant or defendants which resulted in death and any such amount recovered for such expenses shall be so expended by the personal representative.
(d) Every such action shall be commenced within two years after the death of such a deceased person subject to the provisions of section eighteen, article two, chapter fifty-five. The provisions of this section shall do not apply to actions brought for the death of any person occurring prior to July 1, 1988.
(e) At least ten days prior to a distribution hearing scheduled pursuant to a wrongful death matter under this section, the court will cause proper notice of the hearing to be served upon all heirs identified on the estate appraisement forms filed in the county clerk’s office.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to remove those who would be “equitably entitled” to share in the distribution of damage awards in a wrongful death action and to provide notice to heirs of a distribution hearing.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.