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Parents' grounds to sue questioned in Colo. wrongful death suit

In a case that has made national headlines, a Colorado woman is presumed dead after going missing on Thanksgiving Day. Approximately one month after her disappearance, authorities arrested her fiance, charging him with her murder despite the fact that her body is still missing. The charges against the one-time fiance include two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of solicitation, as authorities allege that he attempted to hire someone to kill the woman months before her eventual disappearance.

In addition to the criminal charges, the woman's fiance now also faces a wrongful death lawsuit that the woman's parents, who live in Idaho, have brought against him in Colorado federal court. However, the fiance's defense attorney has requested that the court dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that it has no merit because the woman's parents do not have grounds to file a wrongful death suit under Colorado state law.

The woman leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter, and the defense attorney claims that, under Colorado law, the decedent's parents do not have legal standing to bring a wrongful death suit when the decedent has either a surviving child or a surviving spouse. The lawsuit does not name the woman's daughter as a plaintiff, and the defense attorney claims that the parents cannot amend the suit to include their granddaughter due to their lack of standing in the court. The amount of damages that the woman's parents are seeking in the lawsuit remains unspecified.

Though the circumstances are particularly dramatic, this case illustrates how complicated dealing with family law matters after wrongful death can be. Families struggling with difficult legal matters such as this may find it helpful to discuss the case with an attorney.

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