Minnesota law establishes that a cause of action arising out of an injury to the person dies with the person, except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 573.02 (1998), the wrongful death statute. Minn. Stat. § 573.01. Therefore, the only remedy available for claims resulting from decedent’s death would fall under the wrongful death statute, which provides that “recovery in the action * * * shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin * * * . Minn. Stat. § 573.02, subd. 1.
The Minnesota cause of action for wrongful death is created by statute, since there is not a cause of action for wrongful death at common law. See, Fussner v. Andert, 113 NW2d 355 (1962). The statute allows for a limited claim for the pecuniary loss resulting from the act of another, the statute does not provide for damages that are subjective such as emotional distress and pain and suffering.
Minnesota Statute 573.01, subd. 1, sets for that a trustee must be appointed to initiate or continue any claims. The trustee’s claim is for the exclusive benefit of the next of kin and surviving spouse of the deceased. The term “next-of-kin” is a term of art and is not the same as “heirs at law”. The next-of-kin, includes the spouse, siblings, parents, and children of the deceased. This has been expanded to include a presumptive “next-of-kin” relationship for grandparents. See, Minn. R. Gen Prac. 144.01. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in the case of Wynkoop v Carpenter, 574 NW2d 422 (Minn. 1998), held that all the next-of-kin may sue, and they go on to define “all next-of-kin” to include “blood relatives who are members of class from which beneficiaries are chosen under the intestacy statute.”
If you are able to establish a claim for wrongful death, the determination of damages is has been interpreted by the courts, to be limited to the pecuniary loss of related to the death. Damages for pain and suffering, grief, sorrow, and emotional distress are limited by the statute.
Generally, there is a three year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, unless it is a Underinsured Claim, UM, which according to the Minnesota Supreme Court, a six year statute of limitations applies to a wrongful death claim due to the contractural nature of the claim. See, Miklas v. Parrott, 684 NW2d 458 (Minn. 2004).
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If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or abuse in a nursing home or other care facility that serves the elderly in Minnesota, please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding the obligations of the facility and your rights as a resident or concerned family member. To contact attorney Kenneth LaBore, directly please send an email to klabore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com, or call Ken at 612-743-9048.