Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Commorientes Definition:

Two or more persons dying at about the same time, usually in the same event, but in circumstances in which it is impossible to determine the order of death.
Determining who died first in a catastrophic disaster or accident can have significant consequences in regards to the estate and beneficiaries of the deceased.

In Mandin Estate, Justice Sulatycky of the Alberta Court of Appeal wrote that commorient means:

"... circumstances where two or more persons die at or about the same time and it is not possible to determine the order of death."

Most jurisdictions have statutes that contain a presumption of commorient death in order of seniority. The jurisdiction of British Columbia, in Canada, has a survivorship law which, at §2, states the rule:

"... if 2 or more persons die at the same time or in circumstances that make it uncertain which of them survived the other or others, those deaths are, for all purposes affecting the title to property, presumed to have occurred in the order of seniority, and accordingly the younger is deemed to have survived the older."

Prior to 1925, in England, beneficiaries had to fight it out and leave the court in the unenviable position of ruling which person died first. But §184 of the British Law and Property Act 1925 changed that and influenced other Commonwealth and common law jurisdictions:

"In all cases where, after the commencement of this Act, two or more persons have died in circumstances rendering it uncertain which of them survived the other or others, such deaths shall (subject to any order of the court), for all purposes affecting the title to property, be presumed to have occurred in order of seniority, and accordingly the younger shall be deemed to have survived the elder."

REFERENCES:

Categories & Topics:


Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!