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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Clement v. Fulton (4/8/2005) sp-5883

Clement v. Fulton (4/8/2005) sp-5883

Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC REPORTER.  Readers are requested to 
bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone 
(907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


	THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
	

MARIA CLEMENT, as Co-Personal	 )
Representative of the Estate of 		 )	Supreme Court No. S-11077
Mary A. Fulton, Deceased,		 )
                                           )	Superior Court No. 3AN-01-9046 CI
                 Appellant,			 )
                                           )	O P I N I O N
       v.					 )
                                           )	[No. 5883 - April 8, 2005]
MIKE FULTON, as Co-Personal	 )
Representative of the Estate of 		 )
Mary A. Fulton, Deceased, and 		 )
SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE IN 	 )
WASHINGTON, d/b/a PROVIDENCE )
ALASKA MEDICAL CENTER,	 )
                                           )
                 Appellees.			 )
________________________________)


Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third 
Judicial District, Anchorage, Sen K. Tan, Judge.

Appearances:  Thomas S. Gingras, and Erin K. Egan, Eide, Miller 
& Pate, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellant.  Laurel J. Peterson, 
Laurel J. Peterson, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee Mike Fulton.  

Before:  Bryner, Chief Justice, Matthews, Eastaugh, Fabe, and 
Carpeneti, Justices.  

EASTAUGH, Justice.
              FABE, Justice, dissenting.  
              

I.	INTRODUCTION
              Mary Fulton died several days after a hospital allegedly failed to diagnose and 
treat her medical condition, leukemia.  She was survived by her husband and two minor 
children. The children contend that the superior court misallocated the wrongful death 
settlement proceeds paid by the hospital.  Because the court did not clearly err in rejecting the 
children?s assertion that Mary Fulton?s life expectancy would have been only one year even if 
she had been correctly diagnosed, we affirm the allocation.
II.	FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
              Mary Fulton was the primary breadwinner in the Fulton family; she supported 
her husband, Michael Fulton, and her two minor children, Savannah and Christopher.  On 
November 25, 1999, Mary sought treatment for headaches and weight loss at Providence 
Alaska Medical Center.  As a result of a blood test mix-up, the hospital failed to diagnose her 
true medical condition, and she was discharged.  She actually had acute leukemia.  She 
returned to the hospital on November 29 and died on November 30, five days after she first 
sought treatment, following a hemorrhage in her right temporal lobe. 
              Mary?s estate, through co-personal representatives Maria Clement and Michael 
Fulton, sued the hospital for damages under Alaska?s survivorship and wrongful death statutes, 
claiming the hospital misdiagnosed her condition and failed to give her proper care, causing 
her death.   Maria Clement is one of Mary?s adult daughters.  The estate and the hospital 
eventually agreed to settle the lawsuit for $500,000, but no agreement was reached on how to 
allocate the settlement funds between Mary Fulton?s two minor children and her husband.
              

              In November 2002 Michael Fulton moved for superior court approval of the 
amount of the proposed settlement and for allocation of the settlement proceeds to the three 
surviving statutory dependents in accordance with Horsford v. Estate of Horsford.   Statutory 
dependents are the statutory beneficiaries recognized in the Alaska Wrongful Death Act, AS 
09.55.580.  Under Horsford, wrongful death settlement proceeds are allocated based upon the 
life expectancy of the decedent and the years each statutory dependent could reasonably expect 
to receive significant benefits from the decedent.   Michael claimed that application of the 
Horsford formula would entitle him to sixty-three percent of the settlement.
              Clement, on behalf of the minor children, opposed Michael?s proposed 
allocation because she asserted that, among other reasons, his allocation assumed Mary had a 
full life expectancy.  Arguing in part that ?[i]t is incorrect to apply a normal life expectancy for 
Mary Fulton when she more likely than not would only have survived another year,? Clement 
urged the superior court to depart from the Horsford formula and allocate the proceeds on 
equitable grounds.  She also contended that Michael should not share in the settlement at all 
because Mary had intended to divorce him.  She argued that Michael should receive nothing 
because he had emotionally and physically abused the children.
              

              After hearing evidence on February 11 and 27, 2003 and oral argument, 
Superior Court Judge Sen K. Tan approved the proposed settlement with the hospital and 
allocated the proceeds among the three beneficiaries.  In allocating the proceeds, the superior 
court held that ?this is not a case where the Horsford formula should be applied.?  Observing 
that the Horsford formula ?is not a hard and fast rule and . . . can be modified for longer 
periods of dependency, [and] expectations of contribution beyond the age of majority,? or 
abandoned if necessary, the superior court concluded that the children?s need for mental 
health treatment justified a departure from the formula.  The court balanced the needs of the 
children against the needs of Michael Fulton, a seasonal worker with a sporadic work history, 
and allocated forty-five percent of the settlement to Michael, twenty percent to Christopher, 
and thirty-five percent to Savannah.  The court denied Clement?s reconsideration motion.  She 
now appeals. 
III.	DISCUSSION
       A.	Standard of Review
       

              We review for clear error the factual findings that supply the foundational basis 
upon which to apply Horsford in allocating a wrongful death action recovery.   We will reverse a 
finding of fact as clearly erroneous when we are left with a definite and firm conviction based 
on the totality of the record that the superior court has made a mistake.   To the extent the 
superior court, in determining the most equitable allocation,   deviates from the allocation 
strictly compelled by the Horsford formula or chooses not to apply the formula, we apply an 
abuse of discretion standard of review and will not reverse unless the allocation is clearly 
unjust. 
B.	It Was Not Clear Error for the Superior Court To Reject Clement?s Assertion 
that Mary Had a Life Expectancy of Only One Year.
              In contending that it was error to allocate anything, or so much, to Michael, 
Clement argues that the superior court erred in finding that Mary had a life expectancy of 
more than one year.  Mary?s life expectancy is one factor potentially relevant to determining the 
expected years of dependency of her minor children and husband.  Under the Horsford 
formula, the superior court allocates wrongful death damages among the beneficiaries based on 
each beneficiary?s expected years of reasonably significant dependency.   The number of years 
each beneficiary is expected to be dependent on the decedent out of the total number of years 
of dependency determines the beneficiary?s share of the settlement proceeds.   The formula 
assumes that the annual pecuniary loss for each statutory beneficiary is equal.  
              

              Michael?s proposed allocation assumed that he would predecease Mary; it 
therefore used his life expectancy, not Mary?s, to estimate the duration of his dependency.  
Michael?s proposal calculated each minor child?s expected dependency to the age of majority.  
Based on the beneficiaries? relative years of expected dependency and the Horsford formula, 
Michael?s proposal allocated sixty-three percent of the proceeds to Michael, twenty-four percent 
to Savannah, and thirteen percent to Christopher. 
              Clement?s written opposition to Michael?s proposed allocation asked the 
superior court to ?abandon? the Horsford formula and divide the proceeds ?equitably,? 
allocating nothing to Michael.  She based this argument in part on her assertion that it was 
incorrect to assign a normal life expectancy to Mary ?when she more likely than not would have 
survived only another year,? even if the hospital had not been negligent. 
              

              The superior court eventually rejected the allocations proposed by both sides.   
Recognizing that it could modify the formula to reflect the needs of the children,  it allocated 
forty-five percent to Michael, thirty-five percent to Savannah, and twenty percent to 
Christopher.  Although the court never explicitly stated what life expectancy it attributed to 
Mary, it was clearly greater than one year, given the settlement share the court allocated to 
Michael.
1.	It was not clear error to give little weight to the unsworn reports.
 		On appeal, Clement argues that it was clear error for the superior court not to 
find that Mary had a life expectancy of only one year.  She asserts that the superior court 
improperly discredited or disregarded two medical reports that, she argues, indicated a ?high 
likelihood? that Mary would have died within one year even if the hospital had not been 
negligent.  Clement maintains that no evidence presented to the superior court would indicate 
otherwise.


              The two reports to which Clement refers are unsworn medical reports prepared 
by Dr. John Kiraly and Dr. David Spindle.  Before the estate and the hospital agreed to settle 
the lawsuit, Michael?s lawyer had submitted both reports to representatives of the hospital and 
to counsel for Clement, the co-personal representative.  Clement argues that Michael?s use of 
the reports in that way results in an admission under Alaska Evidence Rule 801(d)(2)(C) as a 
statement by a person authorized by the party to make a statement concerning the subject.   
We held in Frazier v. H.C. Price/CIR Construction JV that, under Evidence Rule 801(d)(2)(C), 
unsworn medical reports prepared at the appellee?s request were not hearsay.   We concluded 
that the appellee had ?vouched for the credibility and competence of the physicians? who 
prepared the medical reports when it asked the appellant to submit to examination by clinic 
physicians of the appellee?s choice. 
              Clement regards the reports as both (1) legally binding on Michael, because they 
were Evidence Rule 801(d)(2)(C) admissions, and (2) factually conclusive, because she reads 
them to establish that Mary?s probable life expectancy was one year.  She thus describes Dr. 
Kiraly?s report as concluding that Mary ?likely would have succumbed to acute leukemia and 
died within one year.?  She likewise asserts that his report ?finds that Mary Fulton had a life 
expectancy of only one year due to her acute leukemia.?  Referring collectively to both reports, 
she asserts that they ?concluded that it was likely that Mary Fulton would succumb to her 
illness within one year.? 
              The superior court ultimately admitted the reports into evidence, but indicated 
that it would give them little weight because they contained unsworn opinions offered without 
sworn testimony to explain them.  Following the hearing, the court issued its written decision 
in which it found: 
There is also an allegation that Mary Fulton was very ill, and in 
any event would have passed away in about a year or so.  No 
medical doctors testified on this issue.  The Clement 
representative would have this court draw this conclusion from 
the reports and documents submitted.  This court has considered 
the evidence and finds that such a conclusion would be too 
speculative.  In many instances, proper medical treatment may 
bring many diseases into remission, or prolong the life of the 
afflicted.



              The main question Clement poses to us on appeal is whether it was clear error 
for the superior court to reject Clement?s assertion that Mary would have lived only one year.  
Our independent review of the two medical reports persuades us that it was not clear error.  In 
allocating wrongful death damages, the superior court should, absent reliable evidence to the 
contrary, assume that the decedent had a full life expectancy.   When evidence is offered that 
deviates from that assumption, the court must weigh all of the evidence, including evidence of 
the decedent?s normal life expectancy. 
              The evidence Clement offered did not compel a finding that it was reliable and 
conclusive, or even very probative.  It consisted of unsworn expert opinions prepared for the 
wrongful death lawsuit.  The reports focused on the short-term consequences of the missed 
diagnosis rather than Mary?s long-term prognosis.  They seem to primarily address a causal 
relationship between Mary?s death and the hospital?s conduct.  The authors never explained 
Mary?s precise underlying medical condition, nor did they elaborate on the potential effect of 
available therapy.   Dr. Kiraly?s report merely quoted the remission and relapse rates of 
leukemia patients generally.  The court had no opportunity to question the authors regarding 
Mary?s specific chances for survival.
              

              The reports themselves recognize that Mary could have lived longer, perhaps 
much longer, than one year had she received proper medical care.  Dr. Spindle?s report 
expresses an opinion that the misdiagnosis ?might well have been prevented [enabling] her to 
have a much longer life with the correct medical treatment.?  This evidence alone was sufficient 
to support the superior court?s finding.  Furthermore, Dr. Kiraly?s report expresses an opinion 
that the misdiagnosis prevented Mary from receiving therapy ?that may have averted her 
premature death.?  His report also states that it appeared that Mary ?lost the opportunity for 
both short-term and long-term survivals as a result of missed diagnosis.?  The court could have 
permissibly read the reference to her ?long-term? survival to imply that proper care would have 
made long-term survival a realistic possibility.
              Dr. Kiraly?s report also states that ?twenty to thirty percent of patients [who 
receive chemotherapy] may be expected to remain in long-term remission, whereas 70-80% will 
usually relapse within one year and succumb to their disease.?  Dr. Kiraly did not discuss 
factors that would indicate whether Mary was in one group or the other.  His statement that 
many patients will ?usually? relapse within one year and succumb to their disease, read at face 
value, literally only offers an opinion that relapse will usually occur within one year and offers 
no opinion about when death will ensue.  If this is how the superior court read this passage in 
Dr. Kiraly?s opinion, it would have been a permissible reading. 
              

              The dissent states that ?the only evidence in the record specific to Mary Fulton 
indicated that her life expectancy would not be normal.?   But neither doctor indicated what 
her life expectancy would have been, whether her disease probably would have caused her to 
die in the near future, or even whether she would die before Michael (whose life expectancy 
was the basis for his proposal).  Certainly neither report directly states that Mary Fulton would 
have died within one year regardless of the misdiagnosis, and Dr. Spindle?s report instead notes 
the lost possibility of a ?much longer life.?  It was not clear error, therefore, for the superior 
court to regard Clement?s conclusion that Mary would have lived no longer than about a year 
as ?too speculative.? 
              Nor did the court inappropriately speculate when discussing the potential effect 
of treatment.   The superior court?s observation that ?proper medical treatment may bring 
many diseases into remission, or prolong the life of the afflicted? echoes the experts? own 
statements.
              Clement also briefly contends that the superior court ?erred in concluding that 
Mary Fulton had a normal life expectancy.?  This argument is unavailing for several reasons.
              First, it is unpersuasive on the merits.  As we saw above, Dr. Spindle?s opinion 
that Mary might have lived a ?much longer life? supports the superior court?s apparent finding 
that Mary might have lived much longer than one year and its express finding that it was ?too 
speculative? to conclude that Mary would have lived no longer than a year.  Likewise, Dr. 
Kiraly?s report contains passages (discussed above) that support the court?s express finding. 
              This argument also subtly, but unfairly, recasts the way the case was presented to 
the superior court and the arguments Clement made below.  The issue as the parties presented 
it below was whether to deviate from Horsford, not whether to follow Horsford.  This had the 
effect of putting the burden on Clement to affirmatively persuade the court that Mary would 
have lived only about one year, i.e., would not have lived much longer.  
              

              Consequently, Clement affirmatively contended below that the evidence 
established that Mary?s life expectancy was only about one year, not that there was no evidence 
she would have had a normal life expectancy.  She cited Dr. Kiraly?s report in her pre-hearing 
written opposition to Michael?s proposed allocation and affirmatively contended  that it 
established that Mary?s life expectancy was only about one year.  And at the outset of the 
hearing, her lawyer referred again to Dr. Kiraly?s report to support her affirmative contention, 
but did not argue that there was no evidence of normal life expectancy, or that, absent any such 
evidence, Michael should lose.  Clement then undertook to show why the Horsford formula 
should not be followed, and began calling witnesses who testified in support of her ?equitable 
argument? ? that Michael should take nothing because Michael would not support the 
children and had abused or harmed them, that Mary and he had separated, and that Mary 
planned to divorce him.  All the hearing testimony concerned these allegations; none of it 
concerned Mary?s (or Michael?s) life expectancy.  During the final arguments below, she 
asserted that she had offered evidence establishing that there was a ?strong probability? Mary 
would have lived only about a year.  After the court ruled against her, she sought 
reconsideration on the ground the court erred in discounting the opinion of Dr. Kiraly.  She 
did not argue that Michael had failed to discharge any burden of persuasion with respect to life 
expectancy or that there was no evidence that Mary would have had a normal life expectancy 
(or, more relevantly, that Mary would have had a long life or outlived Michael).  At no time did 
Clement assert that Michael failed to establish either that his life expectancy was 30.5 years or 
that a person Mary?s age would outlive him.   She never contended that Michael?s proposed 
allocation was deficient because he failed to offer evidence that a person with Mary?s 
underlying medical condition would live less than the 30.5 years assumed by Michael?s damages 
expert.
              

              Thus, Clement did not affirmatively argue below that there was no evidence 
bringing Mary within Horsford, but instead affirmatively argued only that Dr. Kiraly?s report 
should have convinced the superior court to depart from Horsford.  As the parties presented it, 
the allocation dispute therefore turned on whether the superior court was persuaded by the two 
reports.  It was not.  As we concluded above, that was a permissible choice.
              Moreover, Clement?s argument below was not nuanced; it was effectively all or 
nothing, because her focus was on preventing Michael from receiving any part of the 
settlement. Clement used her contention that Mary would have lived only one year to set the 
stage for her argument that the superior court should altogether ?abandon? Horsford, and, 
applying equitable principles, award everything to the children.  Clement did not contend 
below that Mary might have had a somewhat shorter-than-normal life-span.  That position 
would have been inconsistent with avoiding Horsford and preventing Michael from recovering 
anything.  It was critical to her approach that the court find that Mary would have lived only 
about one year. 
  		Consistent with the way the dispute was argued, the superior court did not 
affirmatively find that Mary would have had a normal life expectancy; it only found that 
Clement had not established that Mary would have lived only about one year.
              It therefore inverts the case as it was tried to say that the superior court erred in 
concluding that Mary would have lived a normal life expectancy.  What the court really did was 
find that the reports did not require the court to accept Clement?s ?speculative? position that 
Mary would have died within a year.  That finding was not clearly erroneous.
2.	Clement does not assert and did not preserve a claim that the superior 
court prevented Dr. Kiraly from testifying.


              The dissent argues that the superior court contributed to the lack of credible 
evidence of Mary?s life expectancy by denying Clement the opportunity to have Dr. Kiraly 
testify telephonically.   But Clement raises no such contention on appeal, and the record 
establishes that she did not preserve any such argument below, either at the hearing or in her 
reconsideration motion.
              After both sides had called and examined all of their witnesses at the evidentiary 
hearing, Clement?s lawyer advised the court that he had no additional witnesses.  The parties? 
lawyers then presented their oral arguments on the allocation issues.  Michael?s lawyer argued, 
among other things, that ?This is an allocation with regards to the statutory [dependents] and 
I?ve heard nothing that should deviate from . . . Horsford at this point.?
              In his opposing argument, Clement?s lawyer referred to Dr. Kiraly?s opinion 
letter submitted with Clement?s pre-hearing memorandum opposing Michael?s proposed 
allocation.  He argued that the letter expressed an opinion that Mary would have had a twenty 
to thirty percent chance of remaining in long-term remission.  He therefore contended, among 
other things, that Horsford did not apply.
              In reply, Michael?s lawyer relied on Dr. Spindle?s report to argue that proper 
treatment might have prevented the hemorrhage that caused Mary?s death and allowed time to 
treat the underlying disease.  He also argued that it was ?spurious? to say that anyone had 
?come here and testified under oath ? in fact these guys haven?t ? that she would have been 
anything other than the 20 percent . . . .?  The superior court immediately stated that it would 
not rely on the unsworn letters.
              

              Clement?s lawyer then asked the court, if it did not accept the letters as 
admissions by Michael, to reopen the hearing to allow Dr. Kiraly?s testimony.  The court again 
stated that it would give his letter little weight if it were admitted; it then gave Clement an 
opportunity to apply ?further? and to explain why Clement?s lawyer had not offered testimony 
from Dr. Kiraly earlier.  When counsel again offered to call Dr. Kiraly, the court admitted both 
letters as evidence to remove ?the issue? and stated that Dr. Kiraly?s letter was unsworn and 
would be given ?very little weight.?  The court then asked the lawyers if there were ?[a]nything 
further??  Clement?s lawyer did not again ask to be allowed to call Dr. Kiraly.  He did not 
object to the procedure the court adopted when it admitted the two letters into evidence after 
indicating it would give them ?little weight.?  Nor, after the court stated that it would give the 
reports little weight, did Clement?s lawyer ask for leave to present testimony from Dr. Kiraly to 
explain his letter or in lieu of it.  Clement therefore did not preserve any possible claim that the 
court erroneously prevented her from calling Dr. Kiraly as a witness.
              

              It also cannot be said that the superior court prevented Clement from offering 
better evidence from Dr. Kiraly, because there is no indication what he might have said. 
Clement made no offer of proof to establish that he would testify to anything beyond what he 
had stated in his letter.  When a court excludes unspecified evidence, a party?s failure to make 
an offer of proof acts as waiver to any claim of error.   Alaska Evidence Rule 103(a)(2) requires 
a party to show that ?the substance of the evidence was made known to the court by offer or 
was apparent from the context within which questions were asked.?  The letter does not clearly 
express an opinion that Mary Fulton would have lived no more than one year if she had been 
properly diagnosed and treated.  Because there was no offer of proof, Clement did not preserve 
any contention that Dr. Kiraly, if permitted to testify, would have offered an opinion that Mary 
would probably have lived no more than a year, or any other period. 
              Finally, Clement does not argue that there was a genuine factual dispute about 
Mary Fulton?s life expectancy that requires remand and more evidence.  She only argues that, 
as a matter of law, Dr. Kiraly?s letter establishes that Mary Fulton would have died within one 
year.  That was also her position below.
              The superior court therefore cannot be regarded as having prevented her from 
offering better telephonic testimony from Dr. Kiraly.
C.	The Superior Court Did Not Otherwise Abuse Its Discretion in Allocating the 
Settlement Proceeds.

              Clement also argues that the superior court erred by failing to adjust the 
allocation for other reasons.  Alleging that Michael physically and emotionally abused 
Savannah and Christopher, she argues that Michael?s misconduct requires an equitable 
adjustment of the allocation in favor of the minor children.
              Although Horsford permits the court to modify or abandon its formula ?if there is 
evidence of circumstances indicating a longer period of dependency,? it requires that the 
allocation approximate the actual losses of each beneficiary.   It assumes that the annual 
pecuniary loss of each statutory beneficiary is equal, but this assumption is not justified in every 
case.  Here the superior court recognized that Savannah?s health problems required special 
attention and would probably require treatment beyond her age of majority.  The allocation 
therefore accounted for those needs.  The court also considered Christopher?s need for future 
counseling ?to assist in his transition to his new environment and into adulthood.?  These were 
unquestionably relevant factors.  
              

              It was not error, however, for the court to disregard the other factors advanced by 
Clement.  Whether Michael had abused the children is not relevant to the determination of 
their actual losses for their mother?s death.  Moreover, with regard to allegations of ?patterns of 
physical and emotional abuse,? Judge Tan found only that there were ?instances of 
inappropriate discipline of the children by Michael.?
              In the superior court, Clement also offered evidence that Mary and Michael had 
separated and that Mary intended to divorce him.  She briefly suggests on appeal that this 
evidence is an ?additional factor? we should consider in reviewing the allocation.  But her 
appellate briefs provide no substantive discussion of this proposition.  It is therefore waived, 
and we do not consider it.  
IV.	CONCLUSION
              The superior court did not clearly err in failing to find that Mary Fulton, even if 
properly diagnosed, would not have lived more than one year.  Nor did it err in disregarding 
factors other than the children?s future needs in allocating the settlement proceeds.  We 
therefore AFFIRM the court?s allocation of the proceeds. 
              

FABE, Justice, dissenting.
              I disagree with the court?s conclusion that the superior court?s allocation of  the 
settlement proceeds can be affirmed.  Because the superior court?s allocation decision does not 
contain an express finding as to Mary Fulton?s life expectancy, it is difficult to review its 
decision on this issue.  But in recognizing that Mary?s estranged husband, Michael Fulton, ?in 
terms of number of years, has a claim to a substantial percentage of the settlement? and 
reducing Michael?s requested share based only on ?the additional needs of the children,? it 
appears that the superior court?s decision was premised on Mary having a normal life 
expectancy.  Yet it was undisputed that Mary Fulton suffered from acute leukemia, and the 
superior court admitted Dr. Kiraly?s expert report, which stated that even with prompt 
diagnosis and timely start of induction chemotherapy regimens, seventy to eighty percent of 
patients with acute leukemia ?will usually relapse within one year and succumb to their 
disease.?  Nowhere in the record is there evidence to support a finding that it was probable that 
Mary Fulton would have a normal life expectancy, even if her disease had been treated without 
delay.  Because it appears that the superior court must have assumed that Mary would have had 
a normal life expectancy when it determined that her estranged husband, Michael Fulton, was 
entitled to a substantial percentage of the settlement proceeds paid to her estate, I would 
reverse the trial court?s allocation decision.
              

              Although the court frames the issue as whether it was error ?for the superior 
court to reject Clement?s assertion that Mary had a life expectancy of only one year,? Clement 
makes a separate argument that ?the trial court erred in concluding that Mary Fulton had a 
normal life expectancy.?  The majority has not addressed this question in its opinion, other 
than to remark that ?[i]n allocating wrongful death damages, the superior court should, absent 
reliable evidence to the contrary, assume that the decedent had a full life expectancy.?1  But 
there was reliable evidence to the contrary in this case.  Dr. Kiraly?s admitted expert report 
stated that even with chemotherapy treatment, seventy to eighty percent of properly diagnosed 
patients with acute leukemia ?will usually relapse within one year and succumb to their 
disease.?  And while the majority seems to fault Clement for submitting an unsworn expert 
report to which the trial court was entitled to give little weight, the trial court contributed to 
this problem. 
              When Dr. Kiraly?s expert report was first proffered by Clement at the hearing, 
the trial court expressed concern that the opinion was unsworn.  Clement?s counsel accordingly 
requested ?leave to just reopen the hearing for the purposes of . . . listening to [Dr. Kiraly?s] 
testimony . . . as to that opinion letter and leave him open for cross-examination.?  The trial 
court evinced frustration that the doctor wasn?t immediately available and stated that although 
Clement could make further application to open the record, Clement would have to explain 
why the doctor wasn?t in court for the hearing.  Clement?s counsel responded by explaining 
that Dr. Kiraly was in California and that counsel had assumed that the doctor?s opinion could 
be relied upon as an admission by Mike Fulton during the underlying litigation.  Clement?s 
counsel further suggested that if the court would not consider the letter without Dr. Kiraly?s 
testimony, Dr. Kiraly could be made available by phone.  The superior court replied that it 
would ?just remove the issue and read the letter.  It?s admitted as evidence.  Okay?? 
              

              Based on the trial court?s decision to admit the letter in lieu of accepting 
Clement?s offer to produce the doctor, the only evidence in the record specific to Mary Fulton 
indicated that her life expectancy would not be normal.  Although ?we ordinarily will not 
overturn a trial court?s finding based on conflicting evidence,?2 there is no conflicting evidence 
in this case.  Even if Dr. Kiraly?s report was insufficiently specific to support Clement?s position 
that Mary would have lived no more than one year, the expert report certainly placed the 
question of Mary?s life expectancy in dispute and so precluded the trial court from accepting as 
undisputed Fulton?s position that Mary could expect to have a normal life span.  In light of Dr. 
Kiraly?s admitted report and the total dearth of evidence that Mary Fulton would have a 
normal life expectancy, the trial court?s surmise that Mary Fulton might live longer than 
predicted by the experts because ?[i]n many instances, proper medical treatment may bring 
many diseases into remission, or prolong the life of the afflicted? is simply not supported by the 
record.  Thus, I would hold that the trial court?s apparent determination that Mary Fulton 
would have had a normal life expectancy was clear error, and would remand the case for a 
determination of her life expectancy and reallocation of the settlement proceeds in accordance 
with that finding.
           	AS 09.55.570; AS 09.55.580.
           	Horsford v. Estate of Horsford, 561 P.2d 722 (Alaska 1977).  Wrongful death 
damages are assessed under the Horsford formula rather than in accordance with Alaska?s laws 
of intestate succession.  Id. at 726. 
           	Id. at 725, 727.
           	Id. at 728.  
           	Donnybrook Bldg. Supply, Inc. v. Interior City Branch, First Nat?l Bank of Anchorage, 
798 P.2d 1263, 1266 (Alaska 1990).  
           	Horsford, 561 P.2d at 724 (reviewing superior court?s determination of ?the most 
equitable allocation of the settlement proceeds between the competing beneficiaries?).
           	Cf. Estate of Brandon, 902 P.2d 1299, 1307 (Alaska 1995) (?We apply an abuse of 
discretion standard in reviewing a trial court order approving a settlement of a minor?s claims 
and distributing proceeds of a minor?s settlement under Civil Rule 90.2.?).  
           	Horsford, 561 P.2d at 727.  The record does not reflect whether or how the 
settlement with Providence was allocated between the wrongful death claim and the 
survivorship claim.  Under the laws of intestacy, fifty percent of a survivorship recovery would 
be distributed to Michael and twenty-five percent would be distributed to each child.  Nor does 
the record indicate how much of the settlement remunerated the family for non-economic 
losses such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium that are not governed by the Horsford 
formula.  Because no party argues that the settlement reflected anything other than pecuniary 
losses, we need not consider whether the Horsford formula should not have been applied to the 
whole settlement.
           	Id. at 725. 
           	Michael?s proposed distribution added the expected years of dependency for 
Michael (30.5), Savannah (11.79), and Christopher (6.34) to arrive at the total number of years 
of dependency, 48.63 years.  It then calculated the percentage of the total each beneficiary?s 
dependency represented.  Because Michael?s 30.5 years represented 63 percent of the total, his 
proposal allocated 63 percent of the settlement proceeds to Michael.  His damages expert 
reversed the children?s years of dependency, and therefore reversed their proposed allocations, 
but Michael?s memorandum proposal accurately stated their proposed allocations.
           	Clement also contended during the superior court hearing that there was a 
?strong probability? Mary had approximately a one-year life expectancy and that therefore each 
beneficiary had lost only one year of dependence.  This contention would have implied that the 
settlement proceeds should be allocated equally among the beneficiaries, but Clement expressly 
relied on it only to support her argument that the court should ?abandon? Horsford and award 
little or nothing to Michael. 
           	See Horsford, 561 P.2d at 728 (allowing for adjustment or abandonment of 
formula where evidence indicates longer period of dependency).  See also State, Dep?t of Fish & 
Game v. Kacyon, 31 P.3d 1276, 1282 (Alaska 2001) (recognizing that Horsford is not the 
exclusive allocation method).
           	Evidence Rule 801(d)(2)(C) provides: ?A statement is not hearsay if the 
statement is offered against a party and is a statement by a person authorized by the party to 
make a statement concerning the subject.?
           	Frazier v. H.C. Price/CIR Constr. JV, 794 P.2d 103, 105 (Alaska 1990).  
           	Id.
           	Hinchey v. Hinchey, 722 P.2d 946, 953 n.9 (Alaska 1986); Morrison v. State, 516 
P.2d 402, 406 (Alaska 1973).  
           	Levar v. Elkins, 604 P.2d 602, 604 (Alaska 1980). 
           	Clement?s lawyer told the superior court that Mary had acute myelogenous 
leukemia.  Neither report uses that term.  Dr. Kiraly?s report states that ?it appears that the 
patient had acute leukemia.?  Dr. Spindle?s report does not refer to leukemia.
           	Slip Op. at 20 (emphasis in original).  
           	A court can take judicial notice of mortality tables and should not deviate from 
them unless credible contrary evidence is admitted.  Morrison v. State, 516 P.2d 402, 406 
(Alaska 1973) (?[W]hile the mortality table is not binding on the court, there must be 
some evidence in order to justify a departure from the table.?).
           	Slip Op. at 20.  
           	Walden v. Dep?t. of Transp., 27 P.3d 297, 304 (Alaska 2001).
           	Horsford, 561 P.2d at 726-28.
           	Adamson v. University of Alaska, 819 P.2d 886, 889 n.3 (Alaska 1991) (?Where a 
point is given only a cursory statement in the argument portion of a brief, the point will not be 
considered on appeal.?).  
          1	Slip Op. at 9.
          2	Martin W. v. State, Dep?t of Health & Soc. Servs., 79 P.3d 50, 53 (Alaska 2003); see 
also In re Friedman, 23 P.3d 620, 625 (Alaska 2001) (?We ordinarily will not disturb findings of 
fact made upon conflicting evidence.?).
 
 
 
 

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