In 2016, our client’s husband developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos. Sadly, after 20 years of marriage, he passed away the following year from his condition. When doctors diagnosed the husband’s condition, he and his wife filed a personal injury lawsuit for asbestos-related injuries. The husband and wife then jointly filed a lawsuit for husband’s injuries together with a loss of consortium claim for the wife.
Before the husband passed away, the husband and wife settled with all defendants. Unfortunately, he passed away before all settlement agreements with multiple Defendants were signed. Prior to the husband’s passing, some but not all of the settlement proceeds were received. The wife, no longer having the financial support of her husband and his income, needed the money from the personal injury settlements to live.
The widow filed the Spousal Property Petition pursuant to CAL. PROB. CODE § 13500. The Petition requested court determination that the personal injury settlement proceeds are community property, which should pass to the surviving spouse without administration pursuant to CAL. PROB. CODE § 13500. Unfortunately, the husband’s adult children from his first marriage claimed rights to the personal injury settlement and litigation ensued and the matter was tried in front of a Probate Court judge in the Superior Court of Orange County.
Applying CAL. FAM. CODE § 780 and the law in Leonard v. John Crane, Inc., 206 Cal. App. 4th 1274 (2012), our office fiercely argued for the Court to find that husband and wife’s cause of action for toxic tort claims arose in 2016—when husband was diagnosed with lung cancer—and that the personal injury settlement proceeds are community property.
In the case at hand, damages were not sustained until eighteen years into their marriage. When the harm occurred, the couple spent their community funds on providing medical care and comfort for husband until his unfortunate death.
The court ruled in our client’s favor. The court found, based on the facts presented, the personal injury proceeds were to be considered community property. This meant that the widow got to keep the entirety of the personal injury proceeds.
This widow is not alone in her fight against greedy and unscrupulous family members. There is often complex trust and will disputes that must be dealt with after the death of a loved one. If you are looking for representation in a trust or will dispute, or a situation similar to that of our client’s, our experienced Trust and Probate Attorneys can help. Contact one of the attorneys at (949) 753-9100 or submit your case to be evaluated for free here.