Claud “Tex” McIver on Thursday asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit brought by his wife’s estate, arguing that, under state law, only he can bring such a claim.
McIver was sentenced to life in prison last year for the September 2016 murder of his wife, Diane. McIver claimed the shooting was accidental, saying he fell asleep — gun in hand — in the back seat of his Ford Expedition, driven by Dani Jo Carter, his wife’s best friend.
At the time of her death, Diane McIver was worth millions of dollars and her husband was to inherit most of it. Witnesses testified the two had fought over money because of his financial problems. Witnesses at Tex McIver’s murder trial said the couple had fought over money because of his financial problems.
Now the question is will her estate get the insurance money?
Carter, who testified against Tex McIver, is also named in the wrongful death suit.
“Dani Jo allowed things to occur without intervening,” said Robin Frazier Clark, who represents the estate and its administrator, Mary Margaret Oliver. “And after Diane was shot, she didn’t call 911,” but instead drove to Emory University Hospital, as Tex McIver directed, Clark said.
Last October, DeKalb State Court Judge Mike Jacobs ruled the suit could move forward.
“To put it in the in the simplest terms, the full value of Diane McIver’s life was her property until she passed away, Jacobs wrote, adding that Georgia’s slayer statute prevents Tex McIver inheriting that property.
The judge said that, “because no other person statutorily authorized to bring a wrong death action exists, ‘the administrator or executor of the decedent may bring an action for and may recover and hold the amount recovered for the benefit of the next of kin.’ “
Diane McIver’s estate has listed a cousin, Sandy Schenck, as the late businesswoman’s next of kin.
James Scarbrough, Tex McIver’s attorney, said the “slayer statute,” which prevents a convicted killer from inheriting from his or her victim, should not apply.
“Mr. McIver cannot state a claim against himself because allowing an administrator’s claim for the next of kin to proceed against the next of kin is for all practical purposes one suing himself,” Scarbrough said in his appellate brief.
Dismissing the suit, countered Clark, was not an option.
“That would violate Supreme Court authority,” she said, adding the appeals court can only affirm the state court’s decision or transfer the case to DeKalb Superior Court.
McIver’s murder conviction has no bearing on the suit, according to Clark. She said she just has to prove what is most likely, and that was “an accident causing death took place in that car.”
But insurers won’t cover an intentional death, and they’re sure to put up a fight if the wrongful death suit moves forward. If, for instance, Carter was found liable by a civil jury, Chubb Insurance Company would have to cover any monetary judgment, since Carter was driving the McIvers’ vehicle with their consent.
Carter is not a party to Tex McIver’s appeal. Her attorney, Lee Davis, said his client “didn’t understand how anybody could possibly think she had anything to do with (Diane’s) death.”
Meanwhile, from his cell in Long State Prison in Ludowici, Tex McIver hopes to avoid a civil trial, said Keith Romich, his personal attorney.
“He would like to see this resolved,” Romich told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “No new facts are going to come out in state court.”
McIver, 77, holds onto hope that his murder conviction will one day be overturned, Romich said.
“He’s doing the best he can,” Romich said of his client. “It’s difficult, but he’s adjusting.”
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