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Florida Second DCA rules that doctrine of parental immunity does not apply in wrongful death case involving accident in which both child and the tortfeasor parent were killed

On June 12, 2019, in Jerrels v. Jerrels, et al, No. 2D18-992, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court order limiting the permissible scope of recovery to the available insurance in a wrongful death case.  The case involved a private plane accident that killed the pilot, his minor son and the son’s girlfriend.  The personal representatives of both the son’s estate and the girlfriend’s estate sued the estate of the deceased pilot.  The girlfriend’s estate took the position, and the trial court agreed, that the estate of the son should be limited in any recovery to the available insurance proceeds.  This position was based on a series of Florida Supreme Court cases holding that parental immunity permits an action by a child against a parent only to the extent of available insurance proceeds.  See Ard v. Ard, 414 So. 2d 1066, 1067 (Fla. 1982); Joseph v. Quest, 414 So. 2d 1063, 1063 (Fla. 1982).  In reversing the trial court’s ruling, the Second DCA  was guided by Dressler v. Tubbs, 435 So. 2d 792, 794 (Fla. 1983), in which the Florida Supreme court rejected the use of spousal immunity as a shield against the deceased wife's estate's wrongful death claim against the estate of her deceased husband because “there is no longer any marital unit to preserve."   The Second  DCA concluded that  the policy reasons supporting spousal and parental immunity are indistinguishable.

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