Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Wyoming Supreme Court: Beneficiaries Cannot Intervene In Wrongful Death Action

Estate planningIn Archer v. Mills, the Wyoming Supreme Court addressed "whether heirs of a decedent can intervene in a wrongful death action brought by the wrongful death representative." 

According to the Wyoming Supreme Court, the answer is no. 

Carrie Linn died shortly after undergoing elective surgery. Kallista Mills, the decedent's niece, was appointed decedent's wrongful death representative. Mills alleged that Charles Linn, decedent's surviving spouse, negligently caused decedent's death. On those grounds, Mills brought a wrongful death action against Charles Linn. 

A year later, Mills signed a "Release of All Claims" and filed a stipulation motion to dismiss the wrongful death action with prejudice. 

After the motion was signed, but before it was filed, Carrie Linn's daughters (Lacie Archer and Emily Farley) decided to intervene int he wrongful death action. 

The district court dismissed the action with prejudice after Ms. Archer and Ms. Farley failed to serve opposing counsel with the motion to intervene within ten days of the hearing. Ms. Archer and Ms. Farley appealed. 

In Wyoming, "only the appointed wrongful death representative can bring a wrongful death action. . ." Further, the wrongful death representative represents the interests of the beneficiaries according to a Wyoming statute. 

The Wyoming Supreme Court found that wrongful death actions "shall be brought by" (emphasis added) the wrongful death representative. The Court emphasized that the word "shall" in statutes has always been considered mandatory. 

See Wyoming Supreme Court: Beneficiaries Cannot Intervene In Wrongful Death Action, Probate Stars, June 14, 2021. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2021/06/wyoming-supreme-court-beneficiaries-cannot-intervene-in-wrongful-death-action.html

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