Wrongful Death For Unborn Faces House Vote TomorrowFeb 07, 2011
A bill (HB 1440), patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), to provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another will face an up or down final vote on the floor of the House of Delegates tomorrow. Virginia's current wrongful death law operates in accordance with the "born alive rule." The born alive rule dates back to a 1940s federal court decision declaring that a child could recover damages for injury caused in utero once they were born. By extension, if a baby is born alive (though sometimes barely and only through artificial means) and then dies, a parent can then pursue a wrongful death cause of action for the injury in utero. Approximately 40 states have gone beyond the born alive rule and now allow for pre-birth wrongful death suits for injury caused to a fetus while in utero. HB 1440 would bring Virginia in line with current law in the vast majority of states. This bill defines life as beginning at conception and therefore has the practical effect of expanding the state's wrongful death statue to encompass all unborn children.