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wrongful death

Navigating Legal Waters: Wrongful Death Actions and the Texas Wrongful Death Act

In a recent legal battle that has captured the attention of both legal scholars and the public alike, the question of whether a wrongful death action can be initiated under the Texas Wrongful Death Act when a viable fetus is negligently killed has taken center stage. This complex issue, laden with legal intricacies, has sparked heated debates and culminated in conflicting interpretations by lower courts.


The trial court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, asserting that the wrongful death statute did not encompass a cause of action for the intrauterine death of a fetus, set the stage for a legal showdown. However, the court of appeals introduced a twist by interpreting the statute in a manner that allowed such a cause of action, leading to a reversal and remand for trial (710 S.W.2d 811).


The plot thickened when the Supreme Court, in the subsequent case of Witty v. American General Capital Distributors, Inc. (727 S.W.2d 503, 506, 1987), delivered a decisive statement that altered the landscape. The Court held that “no cause of action may be maintained for the death of a fetus under the wrongful death statute until the right to bring such action is afforded by the legislature.”


This blog explores the nuances of the legal clash, dissecting the arguments presented by both sides and shedding light on the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling. It examines the delicate balance between respecting judicial precedents and recognizing the need for legislative intervention in evolving legal landscapes.


In the pursuit of clarity, the majority of the court, invoking TEX.R.APP.P. 133(b), made a swift decision without oral argument, choosing to reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and affirm the trial court’s judgment. This case serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing interplay between statutory interpretation, legal precedent, and the evolving nature of wrongful death actions in the state of Texas.

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