Estate Enrichment from Wrongful Death Compensation

On the two-year anniversary of the Artist known as “Prince’s” opioid overdose related death in April 2018, the representative of his Estate sued the Walgreens company and an Illinois Hospital for damages. Like New York, Illinois law allows the representative of a decedent’s estate to pursue a wrongful death action for just compensation on behalf of the victim and the surviving family members.


Can an estate collect wrongful death claim compensation?

An estate pursuant of a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased victim of an accident or other negligent act of malpractice or product defect may seek enrichment from both tortious damages and criminal charges. To be compensated fully in a wrongful death tort claim, however, a plaintiff must evidence that the alleged responsible party committed the act causing the death of the victim at the time of the accident.  

In The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Paul Dean RUNYAN, Defendant and Appellant. No. S187804  the Supreme Court of California affirmed mandatory restitution of estates to be enforceable in circumstances of criminal wrongful death. Determining that estate collection of restitution on behalf of the wrongful death victim was justified, the court held that regardless if an estate is a “direct victim” of a crime or not, the executor, administrator or other personal representative of the decedent’s estate is entitled to the collection of mandatory restitution for purposes of economic compensation for the losses sustained by the decedent as victim of criminal conduct.


Can an estate file a wrongful death claim in New York?

New York Consolidated Laws, Estates, Powers and Trusts Law – EPT § 11-3.2 (b) provides that “No cause of action for injury to person or property is lost because of the death of the person in whose favor the cause of action existed.” Listed as one of the entitled “survivors” of a wrongful death victim under N.Y. EPT § 4-1.1, the estate of the deceased person can file a claim on behalf of a spouse, or other heirs or beneficiaries such as children, other direct relatives qualifying for compensatory damages as result of the loss caused by “the wrongful act, neglect or default.”


New York statute of limitations for filing wrongful death actions is two years from the date of the injury. If there is a criminal action pending against a defendant alleged to be the responsible party in a wrongful death action, the estate administrator has “at least one year from the date of the termination of the criminal case” to file a civil matter against that person, N.Y. EPT. Law § 5-4.1. N.Y. Estate Powers & Trusts Law § 5-4.4 empowers an attorney of the estate to bring an action pursuant to the personal representative’s request for a wrongful death claim.

New York Estate Law Firm  

Ettinger Law Firm is a licensed New York attorney practice specializing in estate planning and probate litigation. Contact Ettinger Law Firm to schedule a consultation about an estate law matter.  


See Related Blog Posts

What Happens When a Wrongful Death or Survival Action is Filed on Behalf of a Decedent’s Estate?


Wrongful Death as Part of Probate Estate

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