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Seizer v. Sessions
Washington Supreme Court
940 P.2d 261 (1997)
Rosalie (plaintiff), a Texas resident, married Elmer (defendant), a Washington resident, in Texas. While the couple was living in New York, Rosalie became mentally ill, and Elmer moved her and their daughter back to Texas. Thereafter, Elmer had a 26-year-long common-law marriage with Mary in Colorado. Elmer eventually moved to Washington, where he lived with Barbara, who claimed they were married in Mexico. Elmer won a $100,000 annuity in the Arizona lottery and listed Barbara as his beneficiary. Two years later, Elmer died, and Rosalie’s daughter filed an action seeking Rosalie’s community-property share of Elmer’s lottery winnings. Both Washington and Texas were community-property states, but under Washington law, if Rosalie and Elmer’s marriage was defunct, Rosalie would have no right to any share of Elmer’s lottery winnings, but if it was not, she would be entitled to half; under Texas law, a marriage is only terminated by death or court decree, and Rosalie would be entitled to a one-fourth share of Elmer’s lottery winnings. The trial court held that Washington law applied and dismissed the suit. The appellate court reversed and held that Texas law applied.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)
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