An Ohio man failed in his bid to reverse the legal declaration of his death, in spite of being very much alive. Donald Miller Jr. walked away from his life for over 20 years, and his wife had him declared dead while he was gone. Ohio has a rule that prevents overturning a declaration of death after 3 years. I understand the interest in the finality of judgments – criminal cases have an even shorter time to be challenged – but surely it doesn’t make legal sense for the law to declare something so blatantly wrong. The words, “I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” should never have to come out of a judge’s mouth, but he was compelled to say so under an arcane law.
I am not aware of a similar provision in Florida, but there is a case that says a declaration of death by one court may not preclude a finding otherwise in a different court! Great Southern Life Ins. Co. v. Pocoro, 869 So.2d 585 (Fla 4th DCA 2004). But, since he was declared dead in Ohio, Mr. Miller is legally a zombie. He’s undead: walking around, but legally dead. Just in time for Halloween!