Parham v. Hughes

PETITIONER: Parham
RESPONDENT: Hughes
LOCATION: Superior Court of Richmond County

DOCKET NO.: 78-3
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Georgia

CITATION: 441 US 347 (1979)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1979
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1979

ADVOCATES:
A. Montague Miller - for appellee
Thomas E. Greer -

Facts of the case

Curtis Parham's child and the child's mother were killed in a car accident. Parham was never married to the child's mother, but he signed the child's birth certificate and provided financial support. Parham never legitimated his child as available under Georgia law. After the child's death, Parham attempted to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of his illegitimate child. A Georgia statute barred fathers from bringing wrongful death actions on behalf of illegitimate children. The trial court held that the law violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed, finding that the classification involved was reasonably related to legitimate state interests.

Question

Does the Georgia statute prohibiting biological fathers from bringing wrongful death actions on behalf of illegitimate children violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment?

Media for Parham v. Hughes

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1979 in Parham v. Hughes

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 24, 1979 in Parham v. Hughes

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition of 78-3, Parham against Hughes will be announced Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case is here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Under Georgia law, the mother of an illegitimate child can sue for the wrongful death of that child.

A father who has legitimated the child can also sue for the wrongful death of the child if there is no mother.

A father who has not legitimated a child however is precluded from maintaining a wrongful death action.

The question presented in this case is whether this statutory scheme violates the equal protection or Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying a father of an illegitimate child who has not legitimated the child the right to sue for the child’s wrongful death.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held that the Georgia law does not violate the constitution.

For the reasons set out in an opinion I have filed this morning, which has been joined by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Rehnquist and Mr. Justice Stevens, as well as the reasons set out in a concurring opinion filed by Mr. Justice Powell, the judgment is affirmed.

Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion which Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Marshall, and Mr. Justice Blackmun, have joined.