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Personal Injury Claims of Deceased and Divorced Parents

In re Collins is a case out of Houston where the mom and dad were appointed joint managing conservators of their child by order dated May 2003 and the mother was given the primary right to establish residence and to represent the child in legal actions.  In March 2007 the mother was killed in a building fire in Houston.  Within two days, the father sought legal counsel to pursue the child's claims arising from the mothers death.

As next friend, the father intervened in a suit brought by unrelated plaintiffs seeking damages arising from the same fire in which the mother was killed.  Two days before the intervention, the maternal grandparents filed a wrongful death suit in Harris County as next friend of the child.  In April 2007, the grandparents obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order from the Ft. Bend family court which deleted the suggested provision prohibiting the father from filing legal actions on behalf of the child.

The grandparents also filed a Motion to Modify seeking sole custody of the child.  The father filed a counter petition seeking sole custody.  At a temporary hearing the court appointed an amicus attorney for the child and authorized the amicus to manage all legal proceedings on behalf of the child related to her mother's death, including the right to hire counsel, to receive and review all documents relating to these proceedings and the duty to attend all hearings and depositions. 

The court of appeals determined that the mother's right to represent the child in legal actions expired at her death and passed to the father as the child's only surviving parent.

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