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. Continue reading →