A May 18, 2010, NY Daily News headline was confusing: Court date set for Sean Bell fiancee Nicole Paultre-Bell in wrongful death lawsuit How does a fiancee qualify to bring a wrongful death lawsuit under New York State law? A prior blog entry examined the requirements for becoming appointed as a "personal representative" in order to legally bring a wrongful death lawsuit, and clearly, fiancees have no special statutory right; either one is a spouse or one is not.
The facts of this man's death are especially compelling. An unarmed Mr. Bell and two other men were gunned down on a street in Queens by police officers who unleashed a 50-shot barrage, on the very day that Mr. Bell was to be married to Nicole Paultre.
If the wedding did not take place, the fiancee has no expectation that she would be supported by the decedent in the future, nor absent a will provision favoring her, have any rights to the decedent's estate. How does Nicole Paultre rate?
The answer is that the couple had a baby.
Ms. Paultre sued in her representative capacity as parent on behalf of her child, who is a distributee of Mr. Bell, would expect to rely on his support in the future, and also share in his estate.
Plaintiff lawyers are eager to conference the case on the July, 2010, date set by the federal judge, recalling the multi-million dollar settlements of police torture victim Abner Louima and unarmed shooting victim Ousmane Zongo.