A Proper Plaintiff in a Missouri Wrongful Death Action

by Mary Hodges

If a family member has died due to the fault of another, how can one determine who can bring an action against the party liable for the family member’s death? Missouri wrongful death law, §537.080 provides for different classes of people that may bring a wrongful death action.

The first class is comprised of the spouse, children (or surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children), and parents of the deceased. The parents and children can either be natural or adoptive. The interests of the spouse, children or parent of the deceased are paramount to others. Thus, if there are no persons in the first class entitled to bring the action then the deceased’s siblings, or their descendants who can establish right to damages may bring a wrongful death action. Finally, if there are no persons in class one or two, then the court can appoint a plaintiff ad litem. This is often times an aunt, uncle, cousin, or some other distant relative.

If there are two or more individuals in a class, not all parties need to be joined so long as the plaintiff made a diligent effort to notify all other class members that have a cause of action. In addition, all proper claimants named in the statute may intervene in the claim as a matter of right.

One might wonder whether a parent with minimal or no contact with a child can maintain a wrongful death action. In Missouri, such facts will not bar an absent or delinquent parent from bringing a claim. However, the issues of a parent’s support and contact with the child are relevant when determining the damages to which the parent is entitled.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the fault of another, contact the attorneys at Cosgrove Law Group, LLC.