Utah Court Of Appeals Rules That Woman Can Sue Herself In Fatal Car Accident

An estimated 32,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 alone. Thousands more were injured. Sometimes, we become so accustomed to driving that we forget just how dangerous motor vehicles can be if not properly operated. Automobiles are fast and heavy machinery, which should only be operated with the utmost care. Most car accidents are completely avoidable. These are the auto accidents caused by speeding, distracted driving and aggressive driving. When these bad habits cause crashes, the consequences can be devastating.

Barbara Bagley was driving her family’s Range Rover through the desert near Battle Mountain, Nevada on December 27, 2011 when a fatal accident unfolded. She lost control of the vehicle and hit a large sagebrush, which caused her vehicle to flip over. Her husband, 55-year-old Bradley Vom Baur, was thrown from the vehicle and suffered life-threatening injuries. He was transported to the Battle Mountain General Hospital, where he died on January 6, 2012 as a result of his injuries.

After the deadly accident, Bagley sought permission from a Utah district court judge to file a wrongful death lawsuit against herself. Her attorneys, Mark Rose and Reid Tateoka, argue that Bagley has two separate and distinct interests in the lawsuit. On the one hand, Bagley has an interest as representative of her husband’s estate, and therefore has the duty to file this suit in the best interests of the estate. Separately, Bagley would be the defendant in her own capacity. As defendant, Bagley would be represented by her insurance company. Bagley’s lawsuit claims that she caused the fatal accident by failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to properly control her vehicle.

Initially, a Utah district court judge dismissed the case. Last week, however, the Utah Court of Appeals reinstated her action saying in a unanimous 3-0 decision that Utah statutes do not bar Bagley from suing herself in this type of lawsuit. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah statutes relating to wrongful death actions permit recovery when the harm is caused “by another.” The Utah district court interpreted “by another” to mean by one other than the personal representative of the deceased. The Appeals Court, however, interpreted this phrase to mean harm by one other than the deceased person. Under this interpretation, Bagley’s suit against herself is not barred.

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