In perhaps one of the strangest cases of wrongful death ever, a Utah woman has been granted the right to sue herself for the death of her own husband.
On Dec. 27, 2011, Barbara Bagley lost control of her Range Rover when she hit a large sagebrush in the desert 17 miles east of Battle Mountain, Nevada. The impact with the sagebrush caused the Range Rover to flip over. Her husband, Bradley Vom Baur, was thrown from the vehicle and suffered severe injuries. The 55-year-old was taken to Battle Mountain General Hospital, where he later died. The couple’s Shetland sheepdog was in the vehicle at the time of the crash; the dog ran away and survived for 53 days in the desert before being found.
Court documents show Barbara Bagley claims she was negligent for failing to maintain proper control of her vehicle and for not keeping a proper lookout as she was driving. So why is she suing herself?
It’s a case of her husband’s estate (to which Barbara Bagley is the sole heir) versus creditors and the insurance company. In order for the wife to get any of the estate, she must sue herself–and win–so that the creditors can be paid and only then will she be able to have any money from her husband’s estate.
So convoluted are the laws and sides in this case, even the lawyers are confused. The case was originally dismissed by Third District Judge Paul Maughan in 2014, however the Utah Appeals Court reinstated the suit last week in a 3-0 ruling that says state law does not ban Bagley from suing herself for damages.
“If this suit is allowed to continue, a jury would be asked to determine whether Barbara Bagley’s fault caused Barbara Bagley’s own harm,” attorney Peter Christensen. Attorney Kathryn Tunacik Smith said in a motion to dismiss the suit, “The jury would be asked to determine how much money will fairly compensate Barbara Bagley for the harm she caused herself. The jury will be highly confused — it cannot order a person to compensate herself.”
For now, the case goes forward, but attorneys for the insurance company are deciding whether to appeal the ruling to the Utah Supreme Court. Stay tuned.
Photo credit: Brian Turner