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Tag: Custody or Visitation

Court Clarified Wrongful Deat

The Supreme Court Clarifies Wrongful Death And Child Support Arrearages in Spires V Simpson.

            In December 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court clarified wrongful death and child support arrearages, issuing its opinion on Spires V. Simpson.   concerning a wrongful death lawsuit out of Monroe County, Tennessee. 

            In Spires, Mr. and Mrs. Spires were parents of a minor child, born in the spring of 2009.  One month after the child’s birth, Mr. Spires abandoned the family, though the parties did not divorce.  Mr. Spires did not provide any child or financial support to Mrs. Spires.  In October 2010, Mrs. Spires was tragically killed in a car accident.  Mrs. Spires’ mother got custody of the child following her daughter’s death.

One month after Mrs. Spires’ death, Mr. Spires brought a wrongful death action against the driver of the vehicle.  Both Mrs. Spires’ mother and brother sought intervention in the wrongful death accident.  Both said since they are the child’s custodians, they are entitled to the wrongful death settlement.  Not Mr. Spires.  Noting that Mr. Spires had failed to pay any child support to Mrs. Spires for the benefit of his child. 

            The trial court agreed with Mrs. Spires’ mother and brother.  Holding that Mr. Spires could not recover any amounts from the wrongful death lawsuit due to him.  Thus owing back child support to Mrs. Spires and for the benefit of four unrelated children.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals made a reversal.  Stating Mr. Spires was entitled to prosecute the wrongful death lawsuit. However, any recovery he received would be applied to his back child support arrearages.  Even support for the children other than his child with Mrs. Spires. 

 Spires V. Simpson Wrongful Death Opinion            

The Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court and the Court of Appeals.  The Supreme Court held that the child support arrearage provisions at Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-5-107 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 31-2-105 did not apply in the Spires V. Simpson case.  Mr. Spires was prosecuting the wrongful death action as the surviving spouse of Mrs. Spires.  The Child Support Arrearage forfeiture provisions only preclude a parent who is behind on child support from prosecuting a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased child.  When that parent owes child support for the benefit of the dead child.  The Supreme Court found the purpose of the two forfeiture provisions was to prevent a parent from financially benefitting from the wrongful death of a child the parent failed to support.    

            The Spires V. Simpson opinion clarifies the interpretation of who can bring a wrongful death action.  And the Child Support Arrearage forfeiture provisions.  Legal cases can be dynamic, and new cases may emerge on this subject. To get the most recent and accurate information about the “Spires versus Simpson” case in Tennessee, I recommend checking local news sources, court records, or official legal databases for the latest updates on the case. Legal databases or the official website of the Tennessee courts system could provide details on ongoing cases. For more information or to read the full opinion, visit .

Appellate Court Decisions, Custody or Visitation