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March 25, 2016

MSC grants oral argument to consider whether statute entitles stepchildren to wrongful death settlement proceeds

In In re Estate of Cliffman, No. 151998, the Michigan Supreme Court granted oral argument on the application to consider whether stepchildren may share in a recovery from a wrongful-death settlement, when their parent who was married to the decedent has predeceased the decedent.  The appellants argue that they are entitled to a share in the settlement proceeds because under MCL 600.2922(3)(b) the children of the deceased’s spouse may be able to recover if they suffered damages and survived the deceased.  The probate court relied on In re Combs Estate and determined that the appellants could not receive proceeds from the settlement because their mother predeceased the decedent, which terminated the marriage.  Given that the marriage was terminated at the parent’s death, the stepchildren are not “children of the deceased spouse” under MCL 600.2922(3)(b).  The Court of Appeals affirmed.
 
The Michigan Supreme Court granted mini-oral argument to determine whether MCL 600.2922(3)(b) allows stepchildren of a decedent to make a claim for damages where the natural parent predeceased the decedent, and if so, whether the court should overrule In re Combs Estate

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