Alabama Supreme Court Unanimously Rules “Wrongful Death” Statute Applies to Unborn Child at Any Stage of Development

By Dave Andrusko

Last week the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the decision of a lower court judge that held that a 12-week-old unborn child was not covered under the state’s wrongful death statute. The impact of the unanimous decision, handed down last Friday, was that an unborn child need not have reached viability before his parents can sue an offender in civil court.

April Mack of Bessemer was twelve weeks pregnant when she was badly injured in a car wreck in 2007. Five days later she suffered a miscarriage at the hospital, the Associated Press reported, and filed suit against the drivers of the two vehicles.

Mack sued for injuries and for the death of her unborn child. Although part of the suit was settled, a Jefferson County judge dismissed Mack’s suit against one of the drivers, ” ruling she could not sue because her unborn child was not far enough along to live outside the womb,” according to the AP.

“It’s a victory for the right-to-life movement,” John Stamps, a lawyer for April Mack, said. “For some time the laws did not line up. The Supreme Court has now brought the civil law in line with the criminal law.”

The justices said that two previous court rulings that held that parents could not collect for injuries to unborn children who were not viable “were rendered before the Legislature made it possible to file criminal cases for injuries to nonviable fetuses,” the AP reported. The justices “overruled those cases to establish a new precedent.”

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