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Rebouche v. Anderson

505 So. 2d 808 (1987)

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Rebouche v. Anderson

Louisiana Court of Appeal

505 So. 2d 808 (1987)

Facts

In 1945, Doris D. Rebouche (plaintiff) married Johnny Malcolm Wheeler. The marriage later deteriorated and Rebouche’s mother took care of the divorce process. Then, in 1955, Rebouche married Thomas J. Ramsey and had one child. By 1959, the marriage had deteriorated and Rebouche left Ramsey. Ramsey agreed to Rebouche’s request that he obtain a divorce. However, Ramsey never obtained the divorce. In 1963, Rebouche was told by their son that Ramsey had remarried. However, Ramsey had not legally remarried. In 1967, Rebouche then married Joseph Y. Rebouche (Joseph). In 1984, Joseph underwent open heart surgery and died of a brain embolism after the physicians opened the wrong heart valve. Rebouche filed an action for the wrongful death of her husband against physicians Charles E. Anderson and Bob L. Kightlinger and employers B & B Medical, Inc. and SciMed Life Systems, Inc. (defendants). The defendants argued that Rebouche was not Joseph’s lawful spouse because she had never legally divorced Ramsey and therefore had no right of action. In response, Rebouche sought to be declared the putative spouse of Joseph because she had subjectively believed, in good faith, that the marriage was valid. The court held a hearing. Rebouche presented evidence that she believed in good faith that she was divorced from Ramsey, given that she had only a sixth-grade education and an intellectual age of 12, that Ramsey had assured her that he would obtain a divorce and she believed he had remarried, and that Ramsey and Rebouche had no contact after the separation. However, the trial court questioned the accuracy of some of these claims. The trial court then denied Rebouche putative-spouse status. The court based its conclusion on the fact that Rebouche was still minimally involved in her first divorce and was aware that a divorce was required for a valid remarriage. Rebouche appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lindsay, J.)

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