After decedent was killed when hit by a vehicle while riding her bicycle, her surviving spouse brought claims against various parties, including a claim against decedent’s insurance provider for negligent misrepresentation and negligent failure to procure insurance. Because these claims were based in tort rather than wrongful death, the Court of Appeals ruled that they accrued to the decedent at the time of her fatal injuries and the settlement proceeds should have been distributed to her estate, not to her surviving spouse.
In Sanders v. Higgins, No. M2022-00892-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2023), plaintiff was the surviving spouse of decedent, who was killed when she was hit by a vehicle while riding her bicycle. Plaintiff brought various claims against several defendants, but the one at issue in this appeal was a claim for negligent misrepresentation and negligent failure to procure insurance against decedent’s insurance company. According to plaintiff, the insurer had misrepresented to plaintiff and decedent that an umbrella policy had been reinstated, and plaintiff did not learn until after decedent’s death that the policy reinstatement never occurred.
The parties reached a settlement on the negligence claims, and the trial court ordered disbursement of the settlement proceeds to plaintiff as surviving spouse. The trial court ruled that the settlement proceeds were compensatory damages to plaintiff, “encompassing the amount of coverage [plaintiff] would have received as a result of the Decedent’s death had an umbrella policy been in place.” Decedent’s estate appealed this ruling, arguing that the tort claim proceeds should have been distributed to the estate. On appeal, the trial court was reversed.