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Sunday, May 5, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Damages for Woman’s Slaying Scaled Back

(CN) - A man cannot seek damages based on the pain and suffering experienced by his daughter when she killed in a murder-for-hire plot, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled.

Sparkle Reid and Rajeeve Rai married in 2000 when their daughter was 5 months old. Less than a month later, Sparkle was murdered in the presence of the baby, while her husband was at work.

Bennet Reid, Sparkle's father, took custody of the baby. He and his wife adopted the child. Rai abandoned the baby and never challenged the adoption.

Reid's murder was a cold case until 2004, when a woman involved in an unrelated case identified Sparkle's killers whom Rajeeve's father, Chiman Rai, had hired.

After Chiman was convicted of murder, Bennet Reid sued the man for wrongful death on behalf of his grandchild and for his daughter's pain and suffering. The trial court awarded the grandchild $2.5 million for wrongful death, along with $100,000 to the estate for pain and suffering.

The Court of Appeals split 6-6 on upholding the latter award, however, questioning whether the plot involved fraud, which would prevent the pain and suffering award from being time-barred.

Reid argued that the murder plot was a fraud and did not need a separate finding regarding the concealment of its participants.

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that Sparkle's estate is not able to collect the $100,000 for his daughter's pain and suffering.

"It is a reasonable inference that no one involved in the murder wanted to be identified and apprehended by police, and most notably the instigator Rai, and that the motivation to get away with the murder does not support a finding of fraudulent concealment or actual fraud in and of itself because a perpetrator's desire not to be identified and caught is present in almost all crimes," Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines wrote for the court.

While the two-year statute of limitations expired regarding the smaller financial award, Rai was not relieved of the $2.5 million award for wrongful death.

He challenged the trial court's transference of the wrongful death cause of action from his son to his granddaughter, which started the clock on the statute of limitations.

"As for Rai's underlying assumption that the statute of limitation had run before the child's abandonment by her father, the trial court did not finds that to be the case," Hines wrote.

"And, as the trial court was exercising its equitable authority, it had the right to make factual findings without the intervention of the jury," he added. "There is likewise no merit to Rai's further assertion that tolling the statute of limitation did not begin until the trial court's formal transfer of the cause of action."

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