Three women in Texas are accused of offering assistance to a friend who wanted to end her pregnancy. Now the three women each face a $1 million wrongful death lawsuit.
What does Texas law say about this type of wrongful death case, and is this the new normal?
An Abortion Leads to a Wrongful Death Civil Case
In February 2023, Marcus Silva and his wife Brittni officially divorced. Brittni Silva filed for divorce in May 2022, two months before Marcus Silva says she became pregnant, hid it from him, and had an abortion.
In a lawsuit filed in Galveston County, Texas, Marcus Silva claims his wife discovered she was pregnant in July 2022 and reached out to friends for help in attaining an abortion. The lawsuit points to text messages exchanged by three women and Brittni Silva. Screenshots show conversations where the women discussed the legality of having abortion pills shipped to Texas.
Marcus Silva says two of the women sent his wife information about Aid Access, an international group that sends abortion pills through the mail, and the third woman delivered abortion-inducing medication to Brittni Silva.
Marcus Silva recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the three women and is seeking $1 million in damages from each woman, as reported by the New York Post.
Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?
Who Is Named in the Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The wrongful death lawsuit names three defendants: Jackie Noyola, Amy Carpenter, and Aracely Garcia. The lawsuit also states it would like to include the manufacturer of the abortion pill once the manufacturer is known.
Who the lawsuit does not name is Marcus Silva’s ex-wife, Brittni.
Silva’s lawsuit explicitly states he is excluding his ex-wife from the filing and not pursuing any legal action against her.
What Laws Did The Women Break?
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, laws related to prosecuting abortion on the civil and criminal level have been mostly unknown, unclear, and untested. The attorneys representing Marcus Silva point to new and old Texas laws for the basis of their case.
Texas Senate Bill 8
Marcus Silva’s attorneys include Briscoe Cain, a practicing attorney who is also a Republican serving in the Texas state House, and Jonathan Mitchell, a former state Solicitor General who has been credited as one of the architects of Senate Bill 8, as reported by CNN.
Texas Senate Bill 8, often referred to as the Texas Heartbeat Act which made most abortions illegal after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, took effect on September 1, 2021. The law allows for private citizens to file civil suits against any person who, “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.”
Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code
The lawsuit also alleges that assisting a self-managed abortion qualifies as murder under the state’s wrongful death law outlined in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
In Texas, a surviving spouse, child, parent, or personal representative of the deceased can file a civil wrongful death complaint against a person or entity if their wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness led to the death of a person or a fetus.
Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
Will the Women Be Held Liable?
With no similar cases making it this far in the court system since major changes have impacted abortion laws, it’s unclear how the case will end.
Texas Senate Bill 8 is a relatively new law and hasn’t been brought to a trial yet. For Marcus Silva to win his case against the women, he will need to prove that they actively helped Brittni Silva end her pregnancy.
Wrongful death cases are nothing new in Texas, but Silva’s case will be one of the first of its kind to come to courts after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. To win his case, Marcus Silva will need to prove the various elements of a wrongful death claim. He must prove that the three women:
- Had a duty of care for the deceased
- Breached their duty of care
- Acted in a way that directly caused the wrongful death
The outcome of the case will likely set a precedent for other cases that will come after it and determine what future civil and criminal cases on abortion will look like.
The Law Can Be Complex
The law isn’t always clear and simple. Conflicting and changing laws can impact guidelines that direct civil and criminal cases. If you are dealing with legal issues in either civil or criminal courts, make sure you have an attorney by your side who can interpret the law and understand how it will impact your unique situation.
To talk to an experienced attorney, schedule a consultation with TJ Grimaldi. Get advice about your case. Contact us to schedule today or call us at 813-226-1023.