by Jon Noyes (Attorney Profile)
Wilson Kehoe Winingham LLC
2859 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 920-6400
wkw.com

[Editor’s Note: This is the second article Jon Noyes has written for the Indiana Law Review Blog. You can find his first article here.]


Indiana’s adult wrongful death statutes group individuals into two categories:  (1) adults who were married, or possessed dependent next of kin, or both; [1] and (2) adults who were not married and possessed no dependent next of kin. [2].  Which category the decedent falls into determines the measure of damages available. [3].

Under normal circumstances, this does not present a substantial obstacle.  It is usually easy to determine whether or not the decedent was married or possessed dependent next of kin.  This can be as simple as looking at the decedent’s death certificate.  However, what if it is impossible to determine whether the decedent possessed a spouse or dependents at the time of his or her death?  For example, how would a married couple be categorized if they had no dependents and died in a manner that left it impossible to determine who predeceased who?  Can the plaintiff show that the decedent meets the requirement of either?

The answer is no.  As discussed below, if two individuals that would normally be considered adults that were married expire simultaneously or in a manner that makes it impossible to determine who predeceased who, the plain language of the Wrongful Death Statute seems to indicate that it would be impossible to determine which measure of damages apply.  However, under principles of equity, the personal representatives of the decedents should be able to recover damages as if both individuals left surviving spouses.

by Lara Langeneckert
Deputy Solicitor General
Office of the Indiana Attorney General
lara.langeneckert@atg.in.gov


Imagine you are a successful widget manufacturer, and you have just expanded your business by purchasing another widget company called Acme. In the sale, you received all of Acme’s corporate assets, including its commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance policy [1] from Flanders Insurance. You are all set to begin producing more widgets than ever before when a lawsuit stops you in your tracks: Apparently, the day before you bought Acme, an Acme widget exploded and injured three people. Those people are now suing you, Acme’s successor-in-interest, to recover for their personal injuries.

A bad situation, to be sure, but you’re not too worried. After all, you have Acme’s CGL policy, so Flanders has to defend and indemnify you against this lawsuit, right? To give a classic lawyer answer: it depends [2]—mostly upon what jurisdiction you happen to be in. And if you are in Indiana, you are probably out of luck. This Article discusses the development of the law in this area, with a specific focus on Indiana. Specifically, this Article addresses two ways corporate policyholders can protect themselves both before and after a sale.