American society has changed much in the centuries since its founding. When the framers of our nation wrote and affirmed the constitution by which we live, the matter of children born out of wedlock was simply not discussed. There were probably just as many illegitimate children back then as there are today – but those children were conveniently overlooked in the application of the law regarding equal protection under the law. Fortunately, in modern times we attempt to give all children equal standing in a court of law.
Take the case of Edenfield v. Jackson, 251 Ga. 491 (1983). This is the case of a child whose father was killed in an automobile accident. It happened that this little girl did not come complete with a copy of her mother and father’s marriage license. She did, however, have a birth certificate that listed the deceased man as her father and a written statement from him acknowledging that he was, indeed, her father.
Through her mother, the little girl sued the driver at fault for her father’s wrongful death. At court, the defendant driver’s attorneys asserted that because she was not “legitimate” she could not recover in a wrongful death matter.
When the trial court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment – his request to dismiss the case on these grounds – the case found its way to the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia.
In Georgia, is a child born out of wedlock entitled to claim damages for his/her father’s death? As it works out, they certainly can, though it was not always thus. As our society has evolved, or devolved depending upon your point of view, the law has striven to keep pace with those changes. Not so long ago, in Georgia, the answer to this question would have been no. But the Supreme Court in this case recognized that the condition of illegitimacy is not the fault of the child and cannot be used to deny his/her rights under the constitution, particularly the right to equal protection under the law. The little girl in this case eventually had the opportunity to have her case heard.
The law is fluid enough to recognize that some rights – equal protection among them – that seem to be cast in stone are actually subject to interpretation. In this case, the wrongful interpretation of the past was cast aside.
Perhaps you think that someone you know is not entitled to recover from a loss because that person is not “legitimate.” Before you give up, bring the facts of your case to a lawyer for review.
At The Millar Law Firm, we only do personal injury cases. If you can make a valid claim, we’ll know it. We offer a free case evaluation. We’ll study the facts in your case and give you our best advice as to how to proceed. Excellent advice at no cost. Not only is that a great bargain, it’s also a smart one. Call us today.