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Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision on Lawsuits

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Much of the conversation after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision requiring states to license same sex marriage has focused on the political and social ramifications.  However, there are other changes which will have an impact on lawsuits.  For example:

1.  Loss of consortium — Under Georgia law, the spouse of someone injured due to the negligence of another can sue for the loss of “society, companionship, love, affection, aid, services, cooperation, sexual relations and comfort, such being special rights and duties growing out of the marriage covenants.”  Smith v. Tri-State Culvert Mfg. Co., 126 Ga. App. 508, 510 (1972).  Previously, a same sex couple would not be entitled to such damages in a Georgia lawsuit but now that’s changed.

2.  Wrongful death — O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 governs who may bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a spouse.  Under Georgia law, if there is a surviving spouse that person may bring a lawsuit for the full value of the life of the deceased.  Under Georgia law, a gay man or woman may now bring such a lawsuit on behalf of his/her same sex spouse.

3.  Obtaining medical records of a deceased person — O.C.G.A. § 31-33-2 states that if a person is dead, the executor, administrator or temporary administrator may request the records.  Under O.C.G.A. § 53-6-20 gives first preference to a surviving spouse to be named as the administrator of the deceased’s estate.  If no administrator has been appointed, then the surviving spouse can request and obtain the records.  Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, even if a gay couple were legally married in another state, since Georgia did not recognize that marriage, a same sex spouse could not legally obtain the records of her deceased spouse.  Now such person has that authority under Georgia law.


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