Portrait of John K Grubb

Texas Divorce and Prenuptial Agreement

4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 201 • Houston, Texas 77027-3139

Phone: 713-877-8800 • Fax: 713-877-1229

Personal Injury Lawsuits Do Not Belong to Both Spouses

An important political issue for many doctors and businesses is tort reform. The incident that often sparks the debate is the “hot coffee” case from 1994 when a woman sued McDonald’s after she suffered third degree burns upon spilling hot coffee in her lap at a drive-through. The jury in the case awarded the woman $160,000 for her medical bills and losses and then an additional $2.7 in punitive damages. These high jury awards have prompted some to call for caps on awards, and caps make up a part of tort reform.

Torts are lawsuits that involve a civil wrong; for example, negligence is a common tort. Common tort lawsuits involve negligent drivers who cause accidents or property owners whose dangerous property leads to an injury for a guest. When a spouse receives a settlement or court award pursuant to a personal injury claim, tort reform could have an impact on the couple’s divorce settlement. The proceeds from a tort lawsuit can amount to a lot of money, and a judge will take that amount into consideration should the couple later divorce.

In community property states like Texas, at divorce time, a couple’s property is divided into either community property (anything acquired while the couple was married) or separate property. Separate property is not subject to division, and the proceeds from a personal injury lawsuit are one of the types of property that fall under separate. Tort reform like caps on jury awards would limit the amount of money that the spouse aggrieved by a negligent act could receive. Generally, the other spouse would not have a claim to the tort proceeds, although if the negligent act hurt the other spouse, he or she could have a claim to a portion of the award.

Have you gone through a divorce involving a personal injury lawsuit in which you or your ex-spouse had an interest? How did you end up dealing with the award from the lawsuit?

John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce lawyers

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