On October 5, 2012, after being admitted to Holy Family Hospital for a knee operation, a woman passed away. Her son, Brian Evans, claimed that his mother suffered from sleep apnea and that it was not properly managed by the doctors and hospital staff. As a result, he alleged that the carelessness of the parties ultimately caused or contributed to his mother’s tragic and untimely death. Mr. Evans brought suit against the Defendant hospital, Steward Health Care System, and various health care practitioners who allegedly rendered care and treatment to his mother. The Plaintiff represented himself in the matter and chose not to seek legal representation in pursuit of his claims. Mr. Evans predicated his suit on personal injuries resulting in his mother’s death, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium and loss of love. In turn, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss claiming that the Plaintiff, Brian Evans, does not have standing to sue.
The concept of standing is deeply rooted within the requirements of all judicial matters. Essentially, the principles of standing seek to determine whether or not a person (the potential plaintiff) is the type of person whom the law intends to protect against the type of harm he or she complains of. The three basic requirements of standing are that the person bringing the suit must show that he or she has suffered an injury in fact, that is causally related to the Defendant’s conduct, and that a favorable decision in favor of the claimant will be able to redress the plaintiff’s injuries. While the Plaintiff in the above mentioned scenario has suffered a tragic loss, the Defendants argued that the Plaintiff was not the appropriate person to bring the lawsuit- because legally- he was not the “type” of person the wrongful death statute sought to protect.
As the court articulated, the Wrongful Death Statute in Massachusetts allows an action to be brought by the decedent’s executor or administrator (also referred to as a Personal Representative) on behalf of the designated beneficiaries. However, “there is no independent cause of action that may be brought by individual persons suing in their own right.” Gaudette v. Webb, 284 N.E.2d 222, 226 (Mass. 1972). While Mr. Evans may be the statutory beneficiary, he could not sue the Defendants because he was not the Personal Representative of the estate. Mr. Evans chose to sue the Defendants in his individual capacity and not on behalf of the Estate of his mother. As such, Mr. Evans’ claims predicated on Wrongful Death were dismissed as he had no standing as an individual.
Mr. Evans’ claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is in fact a claim that he can bring individually. Mr. Evans has legal standing to be the appropriate person to be suing. The court indicated that one seeking to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress must show that the Defendant(s) conduct was extreme and outrageous and beyond all possible bounds of decency that is tolerated in a civilized society. The defense, nor does the court, contest that the Plaintiff suffered severe mental anguish over the loss of his mother- however- he failed to plead in his complaint enough evidence to support his claim for emotional distress. Mr. Evans’ remaining claims were also dismissed.
To read more on the above referenced case, please see Evans v. Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. ET AL, which can be found on the United States District Court’s website for the District of Massachusetts. If you believe you have a wrongful death case, our office can help you. To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.