Indiana Court Determines That Attorney Fees Are Recoverable in Wrongful Death Cases

The Court of Appeals of Indiana recently decided in the case of Hillebrand v. Large, 914 N.E.2d 846 (Ind. Ct. App.) that “the damages awarded in a wrongful death action may include the reasonable attorney fees necessary to pursue the action, and these damages inure to the exclusive benefit of the estate for the payment of such costs. The remainder of the damages inure to the exclusive benefit of a nondependent parent or nondependent child of the decedent in accordance with I.C. ยง 34-23-1-2(d).”

The representative of the estate was confused whether the Indiana Wrongful Death statute allowed for the deduction of attorney fees incurred for the recovery of wrongful death proceeds,from the settlement or from the estate itself. While there appeared to be enough funds in the estate from which to pay the attorney fees, the sole beneficiary to the wrongful death case did not wish to have the attorney fees deducted from his settlement funds. In this opinion, the court made it clear that the statute for wrongful death had been written broad enough to encompass the legislative intent to paying all costs related to a wrongful death claim, including attorney fees.

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