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Kansas children's wrongful death claims settles before trial

A Kansas father recently settled a civil dispute with his children over the death of his ex-wife. The siblings alleged their estranged father was part of a three-person conspiracy to kill the Horton mother of four. The brothers and sisters sought damages for wrongful death.

The father was never criminally charged with his former wife's death. During the trial of the man who was convicted of the mother's murder - a second defendant in the wrongful death claim- attorneys suggested the ex-spouse was involved in the crime.

The murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The children's father, the convicted killer and the criminal defendant's wife were named in the liability suit. The accused wife's name was dropped from the civil action more than one year after the lawsuit's September 2011 filing.

The remaining defendants agreed to terms that prevented the wrongful death claim from reaching a jury. The murdered woman's ex-husband reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs in exchange for freedom from responsibility for their mother's death.

Court records showed the convicted murderer signed a confession of judgment. The action allowed the children to receive $200,000, a "concession" that legal documents said were "based solely" on the defendant's criminal verdict.

At one time, parental immunity laws throughout the country prevented children from destroying the "harmony" of a family by suing parents in civil cases. The old rule was also designed to make sure family members did not conspire to commit fraud to receive insurance settlements.

Many states have found reasons to alter or abandon parental immunity laws. In some states, only adult children may file lawsuits against their parents. In other states, legal action is decided on a case-by-case basis.

In many wrongful death cases, plaintiffs are permitted to sue anyone believed of causing harm by negligence. Exceptions remain. A full understanding of wrongful death laws can be discussed with a Kansas personal injury attorney.

Source: cjonline.com, "Ex-husband of slain Horton woman reaches settlement with children," Ann Marie Bush, Feb. 19, 2013

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