391 U.S. 68 (1968), 508, Levy v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:No. 508
Citation:391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436
Party Name:Levy v. Louisiana
Case Date:May 20, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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391 U.S. 68 (1968)

88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436

Levy

v.

Louisiana

No. 508

United States Supreme Court

May 20, 1968

Argued March 27, 1968

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

Appellant, on behalf of five illegitimate children, brought this action under a Louisiana statute (La.Civ.Code Art. 2315) for the wrongful death of their mother. The trial court dismissed the suit and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that a surviving "child" under the statute did not include an illegitimate child, denial of whose right of recovery was "based on morals and general welfare because it discourages bringing children into the world out of wedlock." The State Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Held: The statute as construed to deny a right of recovery under Art. 2315 by illegitimate children creates an invidious discrimination contravening the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since legitimacy or illegitimacy of birth has no relation to the nature of the wrong allegedly inflicted on the mother. Pp. 70-72.

250 La. 25, 193 So.2d 530, reversed.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant sued on behalf of five illegitimate children to recover, under a Louisiana statute1 (La.Civ.Code Ann. Art. 2315 (Supp. 1967)) for two kinds of damages as a result of the wrongful death of their mother: (1) the damages to them for the loss of their mother;

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and (2) those based on the survival of a cause of action which the mother had at the time of her death for pain and suffering. Appellees2 are the doctor who treated her and the insurance company.

We assume in the present state of the pleadings that the mother, Louise Levy, gave birth to these five illegitimate children and that they lived with her; that she treated them as a parent would treat any other child; that she worked as a domestic servant to support them, taking them to church every Sunday and enrolling them, at her own expense, in a parochial school. The Louisiana District Court dismissed the suit. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that "child" in Article 2315 means "legitimate child," the denial to illegitimate children of "the right to recover" being "based on morals and general welfare because it discourages bringing children into the world out of wedlock." 192 So.2d 193, 195. The Supreme Court of Louisiana denied certiorari. 250 La. 25, 193 So.2d 530.

The case is here on appeal (28 U.S.C. § 1257(2)), and we noted probable jurisdiction, 389 U.S. 925, the statute as construed having been sustained against challenge under both the Due Process and...

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