Negligence that results in the death of a South Dakota resident does not always occur within the boundaries of the state. You might have a family member who has visited another state where he or she suffered a fatal accident. Afterwards, you may have brought suit against the negligent party in that state and had won damages. But how does that apply to South Dakota?
This is an important question to ask because the negligent party may also reside in South Dakota or have assets in the state. The negligent party could try to claim that since another state exercised jurisdiction over the wrongful death case, a South Dakota court cannot hold the party liable. However, state law says otherwise.
Enforcing wrongful death damages
South Dakota Code 21-5-4 makes it clear that a court in the state may enforce a wrongful death judgment against a negligent party even if another state’s court originally held the party liable. The law also extends this jurisdiction to damages determined by territories or other countries. So you may seek enforcement of damages in South Dakota even if your relative died while overseas.
However, you should be mindful of time constraints. The wrongful death statute of other states or countries may have a set time to enforce the judgment. Be careful that you do not wait until a statute of limitations runs out to try to hold a party responsible for a wrongful death.
Enforcing damages promotes accountability
Recognizing other state’s wrongful death judgments sends a signal that people who engage in negligent actions may suffer consequences no matter where the death occurs. Even if a negligent individual or company tries to bypass enforcement in South Dakota, state law will not allow them to easily escape accountability.