Family Law


A father’s who “had been largely absent” from his 4-year old son’s life is not entitled to wrongful death proceeds from a lawsuit stemming from the child’s drowning.

A three-judge Pennsylvania Superior Court panel consisting of judges Jack Panella, Deborah Kunselman and John Musmanno upheld a Philadelphia court’s decision that Carl Griggs forfeited his share of the money from a lawsuit filed by the child’s mother, Janelle Johnson.

At the time of the 4-yaer old Nahyer Johnson’s drowning in Neshaminy Creek, Griggs was incarcerated and prior to that was “not involved at all during the first year of child’s life,” Kunselman wrote in the court’s Aug 20 opinion. “Father only saw child once, when mother brought child to visit father in prison. In fact, child thought his maternal grandfather was his dad.”

Following Janelle Johnson’s filing of the lawsuit, she submitted a petition for forfeiture of Griggs share of the wrongful death proceeds. According to Kunselman’s opinion, an evidentiary hearing was held with the child’s grandfather and a day care worker testifying “about the relationship, or the lack thereof,” between Griggs and his son. The court granted the petition.

On appeal, Griggs argued that the trail court erred in determining he failed to support hid don and misinterpreted the law regarding forfeiture.

Reference: P.J. D’Annunzio, Pennsylvania Law weekly, 42 PLW 831, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Johnson v. Neshaminy Shore Picnic Park, PICS Case No. 19-1032 (Pa. Superior Aug 20, 2019) Kunselman, J.

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