Long lost relatives and interested parties
Henry Gornbein: If there’s money, sometimes you have these long lost relatives coming out of the woodwork. You have issues in wills and often seems the more money there is the more people are going to want to fight for a piece of the action. My question, Howard is, How are these things handled? What is your involvement in negotiating whether Aunt Betty gets something or long lost brother who’s been somewhere abroad for 20 years who suddenly appears. How do you handle some of these things?
Howard Linden: That’s a good question Henry. I’ll tell you how it’s handled. The legislature in their wisdom many, many years ago thought that would happen without some guidelines, without some rules. The Michigan wrongful death statute has a specific group of people who can take under a wrongful death case. They are spouses, children, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. That’s it. Anyone else that comes out of the woodwork is not going to be able to file a claim.
Henry Gornbein: Unless they’re named in a will.
Howard Linden: Unless they are named in a will. That is number one. Number two, your second part was how is this done. This is the most important part of what I do. My experience with hundreds of cases in every level of the court system, federal included, has determined a pattern and practice that courts tend to follow in many of these cases. It is in many cases a matter of negotiations. It is in many cases a matter of relationships. If a certain brother for example has been absent, living in California for 20 or 30 years and hasn’t seen the unfortunate person who has passed away, that person would and should get less of the money because it is based on relationships. It’s based on communication. I’ve tried wrongful death distribution cases in federal court, in state court, and the things that control are proof, which most of us don’t have as we’re growing up of the relationship of the decedent, a dead person, and his family. It is very interesting and very complicated because every single case is different, just as every single family is different.
Henry Gornbein: That’s for sure.
Howard Linden: So, we all know we have family members who we are closer to than others and some relationships are closer than others, but as a general rule spouses and children are entitled to the lions share of any moneys recovered from a wrongful death case. There are certain patterns and guidelines and things of that nature, which probably your show is not long enough to cover, but typically that’s who the focus is on and that is who receives most of the funds on a percentage basis.