Senate Bill No. 468
(By Senators Snyder and Bailey)
[Introduced February 11, 2000; referred to the Committee
A BILL to amend and reenact section six, article seven, chapter
fifty-five of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine
hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to actions for
wrongful death; personal representatives to distribute
damages; to whom damages distributed; effective date of act;
and cases excepted from immediate effect of act.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section six, article seven, chapter fifty-five of the
code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, 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 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 the
amount recovered in every such action shall be recovered by said
personal representative and be distributed in accordance herewith.
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 one hundred
dollars, conditioned 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) 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 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. and the personal representative
authorized by subsection (a) shall distribute the damages 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.
(c) (1) The verdict of the jury shall include, but may not be
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 deceased person, subject to the provisions
of section eighteen, article two, chapter fifty-five.
provisions of this section shall not apply to actions brought for
the death of any person occurring prior to the first day of July,
one thousand nine hundred eighty-eight.
(e) Amendments made to the provisions of this section during
the regular session of the Legislature in the year two thousand
shall apply to all actions pending on the effective date of the act
of the Legislature enacting the amendments, except those actions
where: (1) There has been a final decree entered under the provisions of this section; or (2) the taking of evidence has been
completed and the case has been submitted for decision under the
provisions of this section.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to remove from the court the
latitude of distributing the damages recovered in a wrongful death
action and direct the personal representative to make the
distribution in accordance with the decedent's will or, if no will,
in accordance with the laws of decent and distribution.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from
the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would