Berman & Simmons Attorney Elizabeth Kayatta Addresses Changes in Wrongful Death Law

Berman & Simmons attorney Elizabeth Kayatta addressed the Maine Trial Lawyers Association 2019 Fall Seminar with a presentation: “Wrongful Death or Sudden Death: How Probate Code Changes Impact Beneficiaries in Wrongful Death Cases.”

Kayatta zeroed in on the complex changes that the Maine’s new Uniform Probate Code has imposed upon the litigation of wrongful death claims, explaining specifically:
– Wrongful death claims must now apply the intricate rules of the Uniform Probate Code to identify eligible beneficiaries and apportion their shares of the recovery. These new beneficiary rules replace the century-old practice in Maine that recognized the surviving spouse and/or minor children as the default beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim;
– The new rules also impact the ability of family members to assert individual claims for emotional distress in relation to a loved one’s wrongful death;
– The new law creates uncertainty as to whether these beneficiary changes will apply to all wrongful death cases, or only to cases based on deaths that occurred since September 1, 2019—meaning cases that are currently in litigation could end up having different beneficiaries than was expected when the suit was filed; and,
– A recent amendment to the Uniform Probate Code increases the statutory cap on non-economic damages from $500,000 to $750,000, but likely only for wrongful deaths that occurred on or after September 19, 2019.

Kayatta represents clients in claims involving medical malpractice, personal injury, wrongful death, and other civil disputes. The Maine Trial Lawyers Association Fall Seminar took place on October 4th in Portland.