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Wrongful Death Act Revision

H.B. 4777
P.A. 270 of 2005
Rep. William Van Regenmorter
Effective December 18, 2005

Current Status

H.B. 4777 Wrongful Death Act Revision was signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm on December 18, 2005. This law introduced by Rep. William Van Regenmorter took immediate effect.

This bill clarifies that civil lawsuits can be brought for causing the death of an unborn child prior to viability under the Wrongful Death Act.

History

H.B. 4777 was introduced by Rep. William Van Regenmorter on 5/11/05. It was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on 10/12/05 with a vote of 14-0. H.B. 4777 passed on the floor of the House of Representatives on 10/25/05, with a vote of 106-0.

The Wrongful Death Act Revision was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on 11/8/05, with Sen. Alan Cropsey presiding. It passed with a vote of 6-0. On 11/30/05 H.B. 4777 unanimously passed in the Senate with a vote of 35-0, 3 were absent.

Background

In 1998, a RLM-supported law was passed allowing civil lawsuits to be brought against individuals for causing the death of an unborn child prior to the point of "viability." Prior to that time, the courts had already interpreted and extended the Wrongful Death Act to allow actions for the death of post-viable unborn children. A parallel law was also passed in 1998, the Prenatal Protection Act, allowing for charges against a person who injures or kills an unborn child during a criminal act (vis-a-vis the Laci Peterson case).

During the legislative debate over expanding the Wrongful Death Act (WDA), abortion advocates temporarily blocked the bill claiming it was an attempt to declare the unborn a "person" under the WDA. The WDA specifically authorizes an action on behalf of a deceased "person." To overcome this objection, the WDA (Section 2922) was not directly amended, but a new subsection of law added immediately following the WDA (Section 2922a) pertaining specifically to unborn children. The presumption was that the two sections would work in conjunction with each other to allow lawsuits for previable unborn children.

In near total defiance of logic, several courts have dismissed cases involving the wrongful death of previable children claiming that the WDA requires that a "person" has died, and that section 2922a does not declare a previable child to be a "person." This bizarre interpretation of the two laws renders section 2922a essentially meaningless. H.B. 4777 explicitly links the two sections of law together, effectively eliminating these court interpretations.


Wrongful Death

H.B. 4524 of 1998
P.A. 211 of 1998
MCL 600.2922a
Sponsor: Rep. Nick Ciaramitaro

Effective Date: January 1, 1999


H.B. 4524 creates civil liability for a person who causes injury or death to an unborn child by intent or through negligence, at any time during a pregnancy. Prior to this law's enactment, "wrongful death" suits could only be brought if the death occurred after "viability."

 

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