You have a wrongful death claim and need an indisputable source of information to determine the minimum value of a human life. Wouldn’t it be nice if the federal government published minimum values for the loss of a human life? Well, they have! The U.S. Defense Department has made a conscious decision on this very disputed issue of value.
The federal government has determined that the minimum value attributable to the loss of one life is $250,000,000 (a quarter of a billion dollars). How can this be? Where can the supporting information be reviewed? Well, the F-22 Raptor costs approximately $250 million per jet, replacing the F-15 Eagle which costs $65 million each.
The federal government installs pilot ejector systems on every F-22 Raptor Jet fighter. The government does this to protect the pilot, not the plane. In order to save the life of a pilot of a Raptor F-22, the government chooses to sacrifice our most expensive combat jet airplane to insure the pilot lives to fly another day. The F-22 jet airplane costs $250,000,000 to manufacture. In spite of this huge cost, the federal government has chosen to install an ejector system to save the pilot’s life even though the ejection of the pilot will result in the certain and immediate loss of a quarter of a billion dollar jet airplane.
How about that… This analogy was raised some time ago by a trial lawyer by referencing the Eagle F-15. Well the minimum value for the loss of a human life has just gone up… at least in the eyes of the federal government.
The defense oftentimes wants to muddy the waters and misdirect or sway the jury away from a person’s cause with information that is irrelevant or unfairly prejudicial. Wrongful death cases are no exception and remarriage is one of those topics. Fortunately, Indiana court’s have joined the majority of jurisdictions which have prohibited such tactics by the defense as irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.
The general rule in Indiana is that in a wrongful death action a right of action or an amount of recovery is not affected by the fact that the surviving spouse has remarried or contemplates remarriage. Wabash R. Co. v. Gretzinger (1914), 182 Ind. 155, 104 N.E. 69; Consolidated Stone Co. v. Morgan (1903), 160 Ind. 241, 66 N.E. 696; Gilmer v. Carney, 608 N.E.2d 709 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993); City of Bloomington v. Holt (1977) 172 Ind. App. 650, 711, 361 N.E.2d 1211(held motion in limine prohibiting mention of the fact, probability or possibility of remarriage of the plaintiff including with whom he is residing was proper). This restriction applies and restricts proof that a spouse is living with another person and applies regardless of gender. City of Bloomington v. Holt, supra.
The enactment of IC 34-4-36-1,2 concerning payments from collateral sources should not be read or interpreted as changing Indiana’s traditional common law view. The collateral source statute clearly addresses only evidence of monetary payments. Gilmer v. Carney, supra. Since statutes in derogation of the common law are to be strictly construed and should not be extended beyond their express terms or what they unmistakably imply, Indianapolis Power Light v. Brad Snodgrass, Inc. (1991) Ind., 578 N.E.2d 669, IC 34-4-36-2 should not be extended to embrace nonmonetary items such as remarriage. Id.
So be ready for this issue and address it in your pretrial motion in limine so that the defense is prohibited from throwing a skunk into the jury box.