You're not going to believe this story. This comes out of Nassau County and was reported in yesterday's Newsday.

A woman killed her three little kids by drowning in 2008. She then tried to commit suicide by drinking toxic chemical such as bleach, Oxiclean and other lovely cleaning solutions. That obviously didn't work. The next morning she tried to jump out of a second floor window and that didn't work either.

The father of two of the children brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Department of Social Services and was able to settle their cases for a total of $250,000. The father of the other child also sued the Department of Social Services and settled that case for $100,000. That means that for the wrongful death actions of all three little kids, a total of $350,000 is available to be distributed to the surviving heirs.

That's where the problem arises.

In a wrongful death matter in NY, when a settlement has been reached with the people involved in the lawsuit, the family must apply to the Surrogate's court for approval to distribute the money. Typically, the money will go to the closest surviving relatives.

In this case, who are the closest surviving relatives?

Mom and dad. That's the problem.

Mom has been in a psychiatric facility since 2008 when she pleaded innocent by reason of insanity for killing her three young children. She now is demanding that she is entitled to a share of the wrongful death money from the lawsuit against the Dept. of Social Services.

Imagine that!

Mom kills her kids. Dad sues Dept. of Social Services and gets a settlement for the death of his kids. Mom now wants to profit from her intentional horrible acts.

Believe it or not, mom and dad would NORMALLY be entitled to share equally in the settlement money. However, in this case, it would be unimaginable for a court to ignore how the wrongful death matter arose.

There have been cases in New York in the past that have prevented criminals from profiting from their intentional criminal acts. For example, where a criminal is in jail and writes a book that sells and makes a profit. Or where a criminal sells the rights to his story to a film company to make a movie. In those cases, the courts have held that a criminal will not be able to profit from their misdeeds.

Interestingly, the Newsday article points out that even if the Surrogate's court determines that mom is somehow entitled to receive a portion of the settlement money, New York State would take whatever she got because NY State maintains a lien against any settlement proceeds.

What that means is that New York State wants to be repaid for the money they have paid out to maintain mom and treat her at this psychiatric facility since 2008 to the tune of $1.2 million dollars.

The attorney for the dad was quoted as saying he was confident the court would never allow mom to get a dime of the settlement money as a result of her horrendous intentional criminal act.

This story reminds me of the oft-told story of a kid who kills his parents and is brought before the court for sentencing. The kid pleads for leniency. Why? "Please your honor...I'm an orphan. Take mercy on me..." Unbelievable.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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