A claim for wrongful death arises when a corporation or individual causes the death of another by their mistake or other wrongdoing. Wrongful death causes a variety of damages and in Mississippi these damages are categorized as follows.
- Past medical expenses;
- Permanent physical injury;
- Past pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish;
- The Loss of consortium family;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Costs of the Administration of the estate;
- Fear of death;
- Funeral expenses;
Mississippi’s wrongful death statute provides for liberal recovery of damages in wrongful death actions. The statute provides “the party or parties suing shall recover such damages as the jury may determine to be just, taking into consideration all the damages of every kind to the decedent and all the damages of every kind to any and all parties interested in the suit.”. The statute specifically addresses the right to recover property damages and funeral, medical or other related expenses of a decedent, regardless of whether an estate has been open.
The statute was interpreted in Fuller to be broad enough to allow for the recovery for punitive damages in a wrongful death action. Wrongful death damages must be proved to a reasonable probability. Additionally, the Mississippi Supreme Court has construed Miss.Code Ann. § 11713 as allowing heirs to recover a panoply of damages. This statutory lang age has been held to include (1) the present net cash value of the life expectancy of the deceased, (2) the loss of the companionship and society of the decedent, (3) the pain and suffering of the decedent between the time of injury and death, and (4) punitive damages. The single exception from all of these different types of damage recovery is that loss of enjoyment of life damages can only be had in limited situations under Miss. Code Ann. § 11169. The wrongful death beneficiaries identified in Miss. Code § 11713 are entitled to recover damages for the intangibles lost upon the death of a loved one, including the guidance, training, moral support and example of a parent to a child, the companionship, protection, love and moral support of spouse to spouse and a parent’s loss of a child, and for other relationships within the specified beneficiaries of § 11713.
Mississippi Courts have approved testimony, not only from the wrongful death beneficiaries with respect to their relationship with the decedent and loss, but also testimony from additional witnesses who were not members of the family. Other cases have specifically addressed a decedent’s habits character and behavior and approved proof thereof.
In Mississippi, punitive damages are available in wrongful death actions where the defendants actions causing the death were “willful and wanton misconduct, and gross negligence” Miss. Code Ann. § 11165(1)(e) provides: “The trier of fact shall be instructed that the primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar misconduct in the future by the defendant and others while the purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole.”
The net cash value of a decedent’s life expectancy includes his probable gross lifetime earnings, minus personal living expenses, discounted to present value. Plaintiff is not limited to proof of decedent’s historic wages but is entitled to have the court take into consideration “such earnings as [decedent] might reasonably have expected to earn during his lifetime.” Parties may present proof which is reasonably probable to support what a decedent’s lost income would be, including consideration of job promotions, wage increases, fringe benefits and other employment benefits.
The net present cash value of a deceased’s life expectancy is not limited to loss of occupational earnings. Where the evidence does show a source of income, or a source of value, besides wages, the Mississippi cases have taken that into consideration. In Gulf Transport Co. v. Allen, 46 So.2d 436, 439 (Miss. 1950), the Court referred to a 72 year old deceased wife deeming it “elemental that a husband is entitled to the services and earnings of his wife.”
Recovery of the net cash value of a decedent’s life expectancy does not depend upon proof that the decedent was supporting the wrongful death beneficiaries. In Sheffield v. Sheffield, 405 So.2d
1314, 1318 (Miss. 1981), the court authorized recovery of the net cash value of a newborn baby, which obviously had no dependents.
Miss. Code Ann. § 11713
Whenever the death of any person or of any unborn quick child shall be caused by any real, wrongful or negligent act or omission, or by such unsafe machinery, way or appliances as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured or damaged thereby to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, or whenever the death of any person or of any unborn quick child shall be caused by the breach of any warranty, express or implied, of the purity or fitness of any foods, drugs, medicines, beverages, tobacco or any and all other articles or commodities intended for human consumption, as would, had the death not ensued, have entitled the person injured or made ill or damaged thereby, to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, and such deceased person shall have left a widow or children or both, or husband or father or mother, or sister, or brother, the person or corporation, or both that would have been liable if death had not ensued, and the representatives of such person shall be liable for damages, notwithstanding the death, and the fact that death was instantaneous shall in no case affect the right of recovery.
The action for such damages may be brought in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person or unborn quick child for the benefit of all persons entitled under the law to recover, or by widow for the death of her husband, or by the husband for the death of the wife, or by the parent for the death of a child or unborn quick child, or in the name of a child, or in the name of a child for the death of a parent, or by a brother for the death of a sister, or by a sister for the death of a brother, or by a sister for the death of a sister, or a brother for the death of a brother, or all parties interested may join in the suit, and there shall be but one (1) suit for the same death which shall ensue for the benefit of all parties concerned, but the determination of such suit shall not bar another action unless it be decided on its merits.
Except as otherwise provided in Section 11169, in such action the party or parties suing shall recover such damages allowable by law as the jury may determine to be just, taking into consideration all the damages of every kind to the decedent and all damages of every kind to any and all parties interested in the suit.
This section shall apply to all personal injuries of servants and employees received in the service or business of the master or employer, where such injuries result in death, and to all deaths caused by breach of warranty, either express or implied, of the purity and fitness of foods, drugs, medicines, beverages, tobacco or other articles or commodities intended for human consumption.
Any person entitled to bring a wrongful death action may assert or maintain a claim for any breach of expressed warranty or for any breach of implied warranty. A wrongful death action may be maintained or asserted for strict liability in tort or for any cause of action known to the law for which any person, corporation, legal representative or entity would be liable for damages if death had not ensued.
In an action brought pursuant to the provisions of this section by the widow, husband, child, father, mother, sister or brother of the deceased or unborn quick child, or by all interested parties, such party or parties may recover as damages property damages and funeral, medical or other related expenses incurred by or for the deceased as a result of such wrongful or negligent act or omission or breach of warranty, whether an estate has been opened or not. Any amount, but only such an amount, as may be recovered for property damage, funeral, medical or other related expenses shall be subject only to the payment of the debts or liabilities of the deceased for property damages, funeral, medical or other related expenses.
All other damages recovered under the provisions of this section shall not be subject to the payment of the debts or liabilities of the deceased, except as hereinafter provided, and such damages shall be distributed as follows:Damages for the injury and death of a married man shall be equally distributed to his wife and children, and if he has no children all shall go to his wife; damages for the injury and death of a married woman shall be equally distributed to the husband and children, and if she has no children all shall go to the husband; and if the deceased has no husband or wife, the damages shall be equally distributed to the children; if the deceased has no husband, nor wife, nor children, the damages shall be distributed equally to the father, mother, brothers and sisters, or such of them as the deceased may have living at his or her death.
If the deceased have neither husband, nor wife, nor children, nor father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother, then the damages shall go to the legal representative, subject to debts and general distribution, and the fact that the deceased was instantly killed shall not affect the right of the legal representative to recover. All references in this section to children shall include descendants of a deceased child, such descendants to take the share of the deceased child by representation. There shall not be, in any case, a distinction between the kindred of the whole and half blood of equal degree. The provisions of this section shall apply to illegitimate children on account of the death of the mother and to the mother on account of the death of an illegitimate child or children, and they shall have all the benefits, rights and remedies conferred by this section on legitimates. The provisions of this section shall apply to illegitimate children on account of the death of the natural father and to the natural father on account of the death of the illegitimate child or children, and they shall have all the benefits, rights and remedies conferred by this section on legitimates, if the survivor has or establishes the right to inherit from the deceased under Section 91115.
Any rights which a blood parent or parents may have under this section are hereby conferred upon and vested in an adopting parent or adopting parents surviving their deceased adopted child, just as if the child were theirs by the full blood and had been born to the adopting parents in lawful wedlock.