The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/16/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT LEWIS GIBBS COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 6/4/98
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. The Hinds County Circuit Court denied a Motion To Vacate Order Allocating Settlement Amounts brought by Betty Briney, the Successor Administratrix of the estate of Joy Manuel, based on the finding that the motion was not made within a reasonable time. To the contrary, we find that the motion was made within a reasonable time and Rule 60(b)(6) provides the authority for us to reverse and remand the denial of Briney's motion to vacate the Order in order to promote the ends of Justice.
¶2. The Order Briney is seeking to have vacated resulted from a personal injury claim and a wrongful death action brought on behalf of Joy Manuel who died as a result of a motor vehicle accident on March 1, 1990, in Terry, Mississippi. Both Joy and Donald Manuel were residents of the State of California. The presumed husband of Joy, Donald Manuel, brought an action seeking damages for his own personal injuries and for his wife's wrongful death resulting from the accident. After discovery was conducted, a question arose about the validity of Donald and Joy's marriage and a motion for partial summary judgment was filed by both defendants raising this issue. After an estate was opened for Joy Manuel with a County Administrator appointed as Administratrix of her estate, the complaint was amended on July 2, 1992, and filed by both Donald and Joan Salter, the Administratrix of Joy's estate.
¶3. During the pendency of the litigation, United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co. (hereafter USF&G), the worker's compensation insurer of Hawkeye Refrigerated Service Corp., the employer of Donald and Joy at the time of the accident, filed a notice of lien under Iowa Code Section 85.22 for compensation and death benefits that were paid to Donald. It was established that USF&G had paid Donald $117,930.00 in compensation benefits and $38,866.34 in death benefits as Joy's surviving spouse. An Order permitting USF&G to intervene in the suit was signed on April 6, 1993, and USF&G filed its complaint on May 5, 1993, seeking to exercise its lien for workers' compensation benefits paid under Iowa law.
¶4. On the morning of trial on May 10, 1993, one of the defendants, Lavergne Transport, Inc, announced it had reached a settlement in the amount of $40,000 and on the morning of the fourth day of trial the plaintiffs, Donald and Salter, informed the court that they had agreed to settle the case with the other defendant, Geiselbreth, for the total sum of $150,000. On August 11, 1993, the Chancery Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, entered an Order approving the settlement of the doubtful claim for the wrongful death of Joy Manuel. Salter was ordered to request the circuit court to allocate an appropriate amount of settlement funds to Joy's estate. She was further ordered to receive the funds from the registry of the Circuit Court and hold funds until further order by the chancery court concerning the distribution of the funds. On November 24, 1993, the circuit court entered its Order Allocating Settlement Amount which is summarized in the following chart.
SETTLEMENT TO DONALD MANUEL TO ESTATE OF JOY MANUEL
LAVERGNE $20,000.00 $20,000.00
GEISELBRETH $50,000.00 $100,000.00
DISTRIBUTION TO DONALD MANUEL TO ESTATE OF JOY MANUEL
Attorneys' Fees -28,000.00 - 48,000.00
Expenses -11,628.59 - 7,949.67