After the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples across the nation were legally permitted to marry. While the question of same-sex marriage is no longer an issue since the Supreme Court issued its definitive conclusion once and for all, questions regarding states rights still remain.
In Alabama, one such question is whether a gay spouse is entitled to collect a husband/wife’s settlement in Alabama wrongful death cases.
Why is this an issue?
Ordinarily for a married couple, it would not be. But, given the relatively recent ruling on same-sex marriage, some couples were married in states that permitted gay marriage years ago, before the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue.
As a result, Alabama did not allow or recognize same-sex unions as a matter of state law at the same time that gay couples were living in the state after being married in a separate state years prior. A recent ruling from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed this conflict in an important case for gay spouses receiving settlement compensation in wrongful death cases.
Gay Spouses Are Legally Entitled to Collect Settlements in Alabama Wrongful Death Cases
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that Paul Hard, the surviving spouse of David Fancher, was entitled to money from a wrongful death lawsuit settlement after his husband passed away. The couple had been married in Massachusetts in May of 2011, and a year later, Fancher died in a horrific car accident after his car collided with an overturned UPS truck that was blocking Interstate 65.
Because the Supreme Court had not decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2012, Hard was not granted surviving spouse status on the husband’s death certificate. As such, he was not given any funds from the wrongful death settlement agreement. Fancher’s mother wanted the settlement proceeds, which led to the legal battle that was decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision.
The court held that same-sex marriages performed in other states granted certain rights that must be duly recognized by the state of Alabama. In other words, Hard was entitled to the money resulting from the wrongful death settlement with UPS.
If you are the surviving spouse in a same-sex relationship and were denied money from a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be entitled to legal compensation that was unjustly denied to you years ago. Alabama wrongful death attorney Noel B. Leonard will fight for your right to receive your legal entitlement to settlement funds.
From his Foley office, Noel represents wrongful death victims and their families in Foley and Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia Counties. Contact Noel B. Leonard or call 251-943-8638 for a legal consultation to discuss your Alabama wrongful death case.