09 October 2013

Sometimes A Statute Of Limitations Is A Bad Idea

An Ohio man who has been legally dead since 1994 will remain so in the eyes of the law after losing his complaint to overturn his death filing, according to authorities.

Donald Miller, 61, testified Monday that he disappeared in 1986 after losing his job, leaving behind a wife, two children and thousands of dollars of unpaid child support, according to James Hammer, the attorney for Miller's ex-wife, Robin Miller. He was declared legally dead eight years later.

Donald Miller said he returned to Ohio "around 2005" with no knowledge of his legal death, and that he had hoped to re-establish his Social Security number.

A legal statute in Ohio prevents changes to death rulings once three years have passed, Hammer told CNN, and Judge Allan Davis ruled accordingly in Hancock County Probate Court. . . .

Hammer recounts that at the time of Donald Miller's legal death in 1994, he owed Robin Miller around $25,000 in child support, a matter which could have been complicated had the judge ruled in Donald Miller's favor on Monday. Following the 1994 ruling, Hammer said, Robin Miller began receiving Social Security death benefits to support her two children.

"There could have been the possibility that my client would have to pay back what she received from Social Security," Hammer said.

"We certainly did not want to open that door, so we're satisfied with the outcome."

Despite her relief at the court's ruling, Hammer says his client has no ill will toward her ex-husband.

Donald Miller's attorney was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. He still has 30 days to appeal the court's ruling, according Judge Davis.
From here.

As far as I can see, this ruling creates far more problems than it solves. If someone kills Donald Miller, can he be guilty of murder, given that Donald Miller is already legally dead? Is it constitutional to deny someone legal life, when they are actually alive, in a proceeding in which that person received no notice pertaining to their personal status. Shouldn't Social Security have a say in the proceedings as an interested party (surely it is not bound by the determination if it was not a party)?

Simply put, the decision reaches an absurd conclusion, and it is hard to imagine any case in which a person declared to be legally dead is definitively found to actually be alive where this conclusion would not be absurd.


andrew said...

Update here: http://thecourier.com/local-news/2014/11/17/dead-mans-family-can-keep-benefits/

The family was allowed to keep the Social Security benefits paid and he has not been required to repay them (so far anyway). Apparently he didn't appeal the ruling or didn't prevail on appeal, although that isn't entirely clear.

andrew said...

Strike that. He did not appeal the ruling.