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1967 OK 70
426 P.2d 681
Case Number: 41278
Decided: 03/14/1967
Supreme Court of Oklahoma


Syllabus by the Court

¶0 1. In this state, an unemancipated minor child has no right of action against a parent for personal injuries allegedly received as a result of such parent's negligence committed in the course of the family relation.
2. Where no right of action had accrued prior to the death of an unemancipated minor child, none survived to the legal representative of the deceased child under 12 O.S. 1961, § 1051.
3. At common law there was no right of action to recover damages for wrongful death, and that right, if existing, must have been given by legislation.
4. The statute, 12 O.S. 1961, § 1053, authorizing an action for wrongful death to be brought by legal representative of deceased is limited to actions which could have been maintained by deceased had he lived, and does not extend a right of action to a parent to recover damages for the death of an unemancipated minor child from the other parent whose alleged ordinary negligence caused the death of the child. Appeal from the District Court of Payne County; R.L. Hert, Judge.

Death action by the mother of an unemancipated minor against her husband, the father of the deceased minor, for the wrongful death of said minor alleged to have been caused by ordinary negligence of the father in the driving of an automobile in which the said deceased minor was riding as a guest passenger. The trial court sustained the motion of the defendant father for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

Paul Pugh and Al Pugh, Oklahoma City, for plaintiff in error.

Rhodes, Hieronymus, Holloway & Wilson, by William H. Wilson, Oklahoma City, for defendant in error.

HODGES, Justice.

¶1 This is a companion case to Wooden v. Hale, Okl., 426 P.2d 679, which has also been decided today by this court. The parties will be referred to as they appeared in the trial court. The deceased, Kathy Hale, age four, was the unemancipated natural child of the plaintiff, Mary E. Hale, and the defendant, Enoch Hale. She sustained fatal injuries while riding as a passenger in an automobile driven by her father. The plaintiff alleges in her petition that she is the mother and next of kin of Kathy Hale and that the accident was caused by the ordinary negligence of the defendant Enoch Hale, the father of Kathy Hale. She seeks recovery for the pecuniary loss that she has sustained as a result of the wrongful death of the child and damages in behalf of the estate of the deceased child. The trial court sustained the motion of the defendant for judgment on the pleadings and the plaintiff appeals.

¶2 On appeal, the plaintiff asserts that the trial court erred in sustaining the defendant's motion for judgment upon the pleadings in that she is entitled to recover under both

¶3 Under the survival statute, the common law right of action for personal injury survives the death of the injured person and this right is independent of the provision for statutory recovery contained in the wrongful death statute. Deep Rock Oil Corp. v. Sheridan, 10th Cir., 173 F.2d 186; St. Louis & S.F.R. Co. v. Goode, 42 Okl. 784, 142 P. 1185, L.R.A. 1915E, 1141. An action under the survival statute is for injury to the person of the deceased, and is in behalf of his estate; whereas an action under the wrongful death statute is for the pecuniary loss sustained by the surviving spouse and children (or next of kin) of the deceased and is solely for their benefit. Ibid. However, the plaintiff has failed to establish a basis for recovery under either statute in this case.

¶4 Title

"In addition to the causes of action which survive at common law, causes of action * * * for an injury to the person, * * * shall also survive; and the action may be brought, notwithstanding the death of the person entitled or liable to the same."

¶5 This court in Tucker v. Tucker, Okl., 395 P.2d 67, held:

"A minor child may not recover damages from a parent for personal injuries suffered while unemancipated as a result of said parent's ordinary negligence in the operation of an automobile in which the child was riding as a guest passenger; * * *."

¶6 Tucker v. Tucker was reaffirmed by this court in Hampton v. Clendinning, Judge, Okl., 416 P.2d 617.

¶7 It is therefore apparent that had the deceased child, Kathy Hale, lived she could not have prosecuted an action for personal injuries sustained as a result of the ordinary negligence of her father. It follows that since no cause of action accrued to the child while alive, none could survive in favor of the child's estate under

¶8 Title

"When the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, the personal representative of the former may maintain an action therefor against the latter, or his personal representative if he is also deceased, if the former might have maintained an action had he lived, against the latter, or his representative, for an injury for the same act or omission. * * *"

¶9 The recent case of Hill v. Graham, Judge, Okl., 424 P.2d 35, involved an action by the legal representative of a deceased father against the unemancipated minor child of the deceased to recover for the alleged wrongful death of the father. We denied recovery in that case for the reason that

¶10 As the deceased child in the instant case could not have maintained an action against her father had she lived, an action may not be maintained against her father for her wrongful death under

¶11 The plaintiff urges, however, that a right of action did accrue to the deceased child as a result of the father's negligence but that this right was "interfered with" or suspended while the child was still alive on the ground of public policy to preserve parent-child harmony. The plaintiff then argues that upon the death of the child this policy consideration disappears and with it the need for holding the right to sue any longer in abeyance, citing numerous cases. See, e.g., Brennecke v. Kilpatrick, Mo., 336 S.W.2d 68; Dean v. Smith, 106 N.H. 314, 211 A.2d 410; Palcsey v. Tepper, 71 N.J. Super. 294, 176 A.2d 818; Logan v. Reaves, 209 Tenn. 631, 354 S.W.2d 789. While this argument is not without merit, it was considered, and rejected, by this court in Hill v. Graham, Judge, supra. Therein we stated:

"* * * Although considerations of public policy which support a rule have changed, this cannot provide grounds for creating a right of action by judicial legislation where none existed before."

We continue to adhere to the reasoning expressed in that case.

¶12 Next the plaintiff argues that her entitlement to recover the pecuniary loss that she has sustained as a result of the tortious conduct of her husband was recognized by this court in Courtney v. Courtney, 184 Okl. 395, 87 P.2d 660. In the Courtney case we recognized that the common law disability of a married woman to sue her husband for injuries to her person has been removed by statute in this state; however the case in no way enlarged, or even considered, the right to recover damages for the wrongful death of another. We agree that our Legislature has provided that married women shall have the same protection of their rights, including access to the courts, as possessed by men.

¶13 At common law the death of a human being, although clearly involving pecuniary loss, was not the ground of an action for damages. Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co. v. Lenahan, 39 Okl. 283, 135 P. 383; Cowan v. Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co., 66 Okl. 273, 168 P. 1015, L.R.A. 1918B, 1141; Gochenour v. St. Louis San Francisco Ry. Co., 205 Okl. 594, 239 P.2d 769. The right of action for wrongful death exists solely by virtue of statutory enactment. F.W. Woolworth Co. v. Todd, 204 Okl. 532, 231 P.2d 681; Herndon v. Dolton-Barnard Hardware Co., Okl., 289 P.2d 970 (comparing

¶14 The trial court correctly sustained the motion of the defendant for judgment on the pleadings. Judgment affirmed.

¶15 All Judges concur.


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