A Salt Lake City woman can move ahead with a lawsuit in which she is suing herself for the wrongful death of her husband, the Utah Court of Appeals said recently.
Barbara Bagley was driving herself and her husband in the couple’s Range Rover in 2011 when the vehicle slid on some sagebrush in the highway and flipped. The accident threw her husband, Bradley Vom Baur, from the vehicle. He sustained major injuries and died two weeks later in the hospital.
Now, Fox News reports, Bagley, a representative of her husband’s estate, is suing herself as the driver who caused the crash by being negligent, failing to maintain a proper lookout, and failing to keep the vehicle under control. She is seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages that include funeral and medical expenses, loss of future financial support, and loss of companionship.
Bagley’s suit was initially thrown out of court in January 2014, but last week the appeals court ruled in a 3-0 vote that it could move forward.
The decision came down to the definition of the phase “of another” used in two applicable statutes, according to a story from The Salt Lake Tribune.
Defense attorneys argued that the language in the wrongful death law permitting heirs to sue when the death of someone is caused “by the wrongful act or neglect of another,” meant Bagley couldn’t sue herself.
“The jury would be asked to determine how much money will fairly compensate Barbara Bagley for the harm she caused herself. The jury will be highly confused - it cannot order a person to compensate herself,” defense attorneys wrote in a motion to dismiss the suit.
But the appeals court disagreed, saying that “of another” means someone other than the deceased person, which means that as personal representative of her husband’s estate, Bagley is permitted to sue herself as the driver who caused the death of her husband.
University of Utah Law Professor Shima Baradaran told KTVX News that lawsuits like Bagley’s don’t usually happen and are “pretty ludicrous.”
Baradaran suggested the suit is likely a ploy to recover damages from Bagley’s insurance company.
“She is claiming her own negligence in her husband's death,” Baradaran said, “in order to recover for the costs of his death she has to kind of claim her own negligence. So basically she's suing herself so that the insurance recovery can follow.”
Baradaran said she doesn’t expect the appeals court ruling to lead to more cases of people suing themselves.
Defense attorneys still have the option to appeal the case to the Utah Supreme Court.