Panel tables wrongful death bill
Citing concerns over mistresses and even polygamous wives stepping in to sue for wrongful death, a bill that would give a domestic partner standing in court was tabled in committee Wednesday.

SB58, sponsored by Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, would allow a person to designate in their will a person, who they reside with in a "mutually dependent relationship," who can sue for wrongful death.

In addition to non-married heterosexual couples, grandparents raising grandchildren and other alternative living arrangements, McCoy, who is gay, also expressed personal concern for his partner.

McCoy, a member of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee, told fellow committee members he worries if he was hit by a bus, his domestic partner would not be able to seek compensation for the financial loss created by his death.

Those domestic partners designated to sue for wrongful death in a will would still have to prove their financial loss in court, McCoy said.

However, several lawmakers on the other side of the political aisle expressed concern.

"I don't like this statute," said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who pointed out the bill could pit someone's "mistress" against his wife in terms of the legal right to sue for wrongful death. Hillyard said he would prefer to prioritize spouses, children, parents and step-children ahead of others for the right to sue.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, said among his constituents were polygamists. Madsen wondered if the bill wouldn't be better served to allow multiple people to be allowed to sue for wrongful death. The current bill only allows one person to be designated.

Committee Chairman Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said he applauded the direction of the bill and added he had no problem having the bill benefit non-married heterosexual and homosexual couples. However, Bell said he felt the bill needed to be tightened so that legal spouses were not pitted against someone else over the right to sue.

Sensing growing concern, and a bit of hostility, toward his bill, McCoy moved to table the bill to allow him time to work on it further.

Originally published Wednesday, January 31, 2007