Massachusetts Court Refuses to Extend Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Despite New Discovery of Responsible Party’s Assets – Davenport v. Horning

The Massachusetts wrongful death statute provides a legal remedy for those whose loved ones have died due to the negligent, willful, wanton, or reckless behavior of a person or business. If a plaintiff is successful in a wrongful death case, he or she may be entitled to damages, such as the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased person, compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s companionship and counsel, and loss of the deceased’s net income.

Like other tort actions, wrongful death lawsuits are subject to a statute of limitations that limits the time period during which a claimant may file suit against the responsible party. Generally, that time period is three years, although a different length of time may apply in certain situations. (This is one of the many reasons that it is best to consult an attorney sooner, rather than later, in wrongful death and personal injury cases.)

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Davenport v. Horning, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the administratrix of the estate of a man who was allegedly responsible for the death of a one-year-old child some years earlier. The plaintiff’s lawsuit sounded in wrongful death and sought damages for the child’s death. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit, alleging that it was barred by the statute of limitations.

The trial court agreed that the plaintiff’s suit was time-barred and granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case on statute of limitations grounds. The child in question died in December 1982, but the plaintiff’s lawsuit was not brought until March 2012. The plaintiff relied on Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B § 2-803(b) to effectively toll the statute, but the court found that such reliance was misplaced.

According to the court, the statute in question prevented a person who feloniously killed another person from subsequently benefiting from the decedent’s estate. The statute was not applicable here because the person who was responsible for the child’s death did not inherit anything from the estate of the child. Although the responsible person did, according to the plaintiff, inherit certain real estate from another person, this did not toll the statute of limitations. The fact that it took the plaintiff considerably more than three years to discover the responsible person’s assets did not change the limitations period for the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit.

If You Have Lost a Loved One Due to a Wrongful Death in Cape Cod

Losing a loved one is difficult, both emotionally and financially. If you have recently lost a loved one due to another’s negligent or reckless conduct, you should talk to an attorney about seeking compensation from the responsible party. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Cape Cod wrongful death attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664. We are currently reviewing wrongful death cases throughout the Cape Cod, Plymouth, and Hyannis areas of Massachusetts.

Related Blog Posts

Presentment by Estate’s Attorney Held Proper under Massachusetts Tort Claims Act – Gavin v. Tewksbury State Hospital

Massachusetts Supreme Court Upheld $18 Million Punitive Damages Award in Wrongful Death Action

Contact Information