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Court Rules that Man can File Wrongful Death Lawsuit over Fetus

The Wisconsin District 4 Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a young man attempting to file a wrongful death suit against his girlfriend's insurer for the death of the couple's unborn fetus. In 2003, the expectant mother was involved in a serious car accident, resulting in the stillbirth of her child soon after. 

Her boyfriend at the time, Shannon Tesar, attributed the accident partly to her negligence and attempted to sue her for wrongful death, citing pain and suffering and the loss of his unborn child's life. A judge in Wood County originally ruled that the woman had "no legal obligation" to the unborn fetus and could not be held responsible.

Last Thursday, the Court of Appeals overturned that decision. In doing this, Judge Charles Dykman clarified the case against Alicia Vander Meulan. She did not, he said, have a "legal duty to her fetus," but did have a "(legal) duty to the world at large."

The judge determined that, since she did show negligence and it did result in the death of a family member, albeit unborn, Tesar should be allowed to proceed with his wrongful death lawsuit against her insurer.

The judge was careful to clarify that the ruling pertained to this case only and should not be extended to all instances of fetus death. However, it seems likely that such cases will appear in court, if not in Wisconsin, then elsewhere. 

American Family Insurance has not decided whether they will appeal the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Related Resource

  • Court: Wisconsin Man can Sue Over Death of Fetus (Chicago Tribune)

1 Comment

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