United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
PATTY C. WILSON, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of Jerry Wilson, Deceased, Plaintiff,
TA OPERATING, LLC, and TRESTON WESLEY HARRIS, Defendants.
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
wrongful death and survival action was settled in whole on
April 11, 2017. It was initiated on February 23, 2013 by
Plaintiff Patty Wilson, the surviving spouse of the decedent,
Jerry Wilson. Ms. Wilson is the administratrix of her
deceased husband's estate, and counsel for Plaintiff
indicates that she is the sole beneficiary of the wrongful
death and survival actions.
gross settlement amount is [redacted]. ECF No. 183 at
¶ 6. Counsel for Plaintiff proposes that the settlement
funds be distributed 90% toward the wrongful death claim and
10% toward the survival action, with counsel retaining
[redacted] (or 36.67%) in fees. Id. at ¶¶
11, 13. On May 1, 2017, Counsel for Plaintiff moved this
Court for approval of these settlement details, pursuant to
Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 2206. That Rule states,
in pertinent part, as follows:
(b)(1) When as the result of a verdict, judgment, compromise,
settlement or otherwise it has been determined that a sum of
money is due the plaintiff in an action for wrongful death,
the court, upon petition of any party in interest, shall make
an order designating the persons entitled to share in the
damages recovered and the proportionate share of the net
proceeds to which each is entitled.
speak here to two issues raised by Rule 2206: (1) the
propriety of the wrongful death/survival apportionment; and
(2) the reasonableness of the requested fee distribution. I
take no issue with either in this case.
in this case, jurisdiction is predicated upon the presence of
a federal question, the court will apply Pennsylvania
substantive law because the settlement of a lawsuit and the
relationship between an attorney and his or her client are
areas traditionally governed by state law and there is no
conflicting federal interest.” Mowrer v.
Warner-Lambert Co., No. CIV.A.98-2908, 2000 WL 974394,
at *5 (E.D. Pa. July 14, 2000) (Robreno, J.) See also
Coleman v. United States, No. CIV.A. 04-3994, 2005 WL
2230319, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 2005).
Pennsylvania law, a wrongful death action is brought by a
decedent's relatives on their own behalf to recover
damages for pecuniary loss suffered by the loss of
decedent's future contributions.” Coleman,
2005 WL at *1. On the other hand, “[a] survival action
is brought on behalf of decedent for pain and suffering and
loss of income suffered before death.” Id.
prioritizes wrongful death claims over survival claims in
order to put the needs of the decedent's dependents over
the estate beneficiaries.” Coleman, 2005 WL
2230319, at *1. See also Krause v. B & O
Railroad, Pa. D & C.3d 458, 471 (C.P. 1983)
(recognizing “the natural preference for compensation
for needy dependents for loss over windfall
The 90%-10% distribution between the wrongful death claim
and the survival action, respectively, is
counsel for Plaintiff avers that Ms. Wilson is the sole
beneficiary of both the wrongful death and survival actions.
ECF No. 183 at ¶¶ 16-17. As such and based upon
counsel for Plaintiff's representations, the Court need
not concern itself with the appropriate apportionment among
several dependents or between a surviving spouse and the
decedent's issue. Cf. Stecyk v. Bell Helicopter
Textron, Inc., 53 F.Supp.2d 794, 800 (E.D. Pa. 1999)
(modifying a settlement in consideration of “the best
interest of the minor child” and the fact that “a
surviving spouse is not entitled to a credit from the
proceeds of a wrongful death action for past support of a
minor child”). Finally, at this time, the Court is also
unaware of any objection to the proposed distribution.
Therefore, the proposed 90%-10% distribution is approved.
The 36.67% contingency fee arrangement ...