Trusts & Estates
Woman who says she found her father on 23andMe sues after learning of wrongful death settlement
A 26-year-old woman who said she confirmed the identity of her late father through 23andMe has filed a lawsuit after learning that she was left out of a wrongful death settlement reached between other family members and the hospital blamed for his death. Image from Shutterstock.
A 26-year-old woman who said she confirmed the identity of her late father through 23andMe has filed a lawsuit after learning that she was left out of a wrongful death settlement reached between other family members and the hospital blamed for his death.
Plaintiff Carmen Thomas of Lexington, Massachusetts, filed the suit Feb. 8 in Massachusetts superior court against two half-sisters and their mother, who all live in Salem, Massachusetts.
Law360 covered the allegations.
In the suit, Thomas said her mother had told her that her father was named “Joe Brown,” but she had no other information about his identity. After sending a DNA sample to 23andMe, the DNA service issued a report that said Thomas was a match with Kali Brown, a half-sister, Thomas said.
Kali Brown later confirmed that she, her sister Abigail Brown and Thomas all shared the same father, Joseph Brown, the suit says. A cousin also confirmed the relationship and said Joseph Brown had died.
Thomas later met the two half-sisters, as well as their mother, Kristin Eckhardt, and their paternal grandmother, Kathleen Brown. The sisters continued seeing each other, texting and phoning for a number of weeks, the suit says.
“Although the relationship between Carmen, Kali and Abby was one of excitement and joy throughout March 2023, on April 7, 2023, Kali, via text, informed Carmen that she needed time to think about things and wanted some time without Carmen,” the suit says.
Kali Brown wrote that she and her sister “are missing our father a lot, and it’s not really been easy. We are still in a lot of grief, and I know that Abby is feeling overwhelmed, and I’m starting to feel that too with everything going on. I just feel this is good for everybody, and I know that Daddy’s feeling the same way because I had a dream last night that he said to me that I needed to take a break because I’m not focusing on my mental health.”
She went on to ask Thomas not to take the need for a break as a rejection.
Thomas sent a reply hoping for all to get healing and inner peace but never heard back, according to the suit.
Thomas later searched the internet to find the date of her father’s death. Her research led to information that Joseph Brown’s estate, with Eckhardt as the representative, had filed a medical malpractice action against two physicians related to his death. The jury awarded the estate $1 million and the sisters $9.5 million each. Eckhardt did not appear on the verdict form, suggesting that she and Joseph Brown never married, the suit says.
The jury had been empaneled on April 4, 2023, only days before Kali Brown sent the text asking for time apart.
With interest, the award came to $28 million, the suit says. The case settled two weeks after the verdict for an undisclosed amount.
Thomas said she should have been included on the verdict form, along with other next of kin.
The suit alleges unjust enrichment, conversion, interference with inheritance expectancy by Echkardt and breach of fiduciary duty by Eckhardt. The suit seeks an accounting of settlement funds and the placement of a constructive trust on the money.
Thomas is represented by DDSK Law of Beverly, Massachusetts. The docket sheet does not identify a lawyer for the defendants.
The Browns were represented in the medical malpractice case by Robert M. Higgins of Lubin & Meyer, who did not immediately reply to the ABA Journal’s voicemail.