No Windfall for Attempt to Cash In on Son’s Death | Courthouse News Service
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No Windfall for Attempt to Cash In on Son’s Death

(CN) - A mother who settled for $600,000 after her toddler was killed by colliding cop cruisers does not have to give any part of the fund to the child's father, a man who denied paternity for years, never paid child support and was in prison for all but seven months of his son's short life, a federal judge ruled.

Less than two weeks before his fifth birthday, Daviay Legrand was on the sidewalk in Allentown, Pa., when two cop cruisers collided, and one of the cars spun out and struck him, killing him instantly.

The court explains the May 2007 accident using testimony from Daviay's mother, Crystal Legrand, who witnessed her son's death.

"I seen the one cop car coming down Chew Street," Crystal said. "And then it was, like, a split - a split of a second, and the car coming down 7th Street hit the car on Chew Street. And I moved my other son and my daughter out of the way, and Jason tried to move my son, and the car was already on top of Jason and split my son in half."

Jason Marcelle, a friend of Crystal's, was standing beside Daviay when the cars collided. He settled separately with the city for severe injuries he sustained in the accident.

Crystal settled with Allentown for $600,000 this past May. Davaiy's biological father, Andre Watley, was in prison when his son died and did not partake in any of the settlement process. In June, he asserted a right from state prison in Albion to receive proceeds from the fund after Legrand petitioned to approve the settlement.

U.S. District Judge Henry Perkin rejected the motion to intervene after reviewing testimony that established Watley had very limited contact with his son.

"In this case, Ms. Legrand essentially had full and nearly uninterrupted custody of Daviay during his life and was primarily responsible for his physical, financial and emotional well-being," Perkin wrote. "Mr. Watley's contribution to Daviay's development was virtually nonexistent. He did not provide child upport, denied paternity until forced to submit to a court-ordered paternity test, and was in prison for all but seven months of Daviay's short life. Once Mr. Watley's paternity of Daviay was established when Daviay was approximately two and one-half years old, I find that Mr. Watley's social contact with Daviay was limited to two short visits, and during one visit, Mr. Watley was arrested for the rape of a woman whom he assaulted during that visit."

Daviay's parents met and began a two-month sexual relationship in 2001 when Legrand was 15 years old and Watley was 17.

When Legrand became pregnant, Watley called her a "whore," alleged that Legrand was sleeping with another man and repeatedly denied paternity until a court-ordered DNA test proved he was the father. Watley never paid child support, having been in prison on various drug and assault offenses for most of his son's life, but he did give Legrand $41 in December 2004 and his family occasionally bought food, toys and cloths for Daviay.

The court noted that Watley was released from jail about three moths after Davaiy's death and resumed a relationship with Legrand. But during that time, Watley "physically assaulted Ms. Legrand when she attempted to discuss Daviay and his death," and he "expressed anger over and blamed Ms. Legrand for Daviay's death."

"The court believes the testimony that Mr. Watley was upset at Daviay's death and also that Mr. Watley regretted not being a stronger part of his son's life," Perkin wrote. "According to Ms. Legrand '[h]e seemed bothered. Like, he - like, he wished he could be in - like he could have been in his life. Like, he was - it was too late, and that he was sorry.'"

Perkin rejected Watley's argument that he deserved damages because his mother and aunts supported Daviay by proxy.

"To allow Mr. Watley to benefit from the untimely and unfortunate death of Daviay would inequitably reward Mr. Watley for limiting his role in Daviay's life," the 19-page decision states. "Ms. Legrand nurtured Daviay since birth and guided and provided for him through his death, while Mr. Watley failed to acknowledge paternity until forced to do so by the results of a court-ordered paternity test, and failed to provide child support. Daviay lived with Ms. Legrand his entire life, while Daviay spent only a few nights with Mr. Watley of the seven months of Daviay's life when Mr. Watley was not incarcerated. In balancing the interests of properly compensating Daviay's estate and preventing windfall inheritances and recognizing the legal elements of a survival action in Pennsylvania, I find that there is no required allocation of the settlement proceeds to the survival action."

Watley's "failure to provide child support, preschool or other educational services, emotional support, little or no disbursements of cash and little interest in his son," and his failure "to present any evidence other than his testimony and that of his mother and aunts" proves that Watley did not suffer any pecuniary loss, Perkin wrote.

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