Dead people can't defend themselves. Whether they were relatives, acquaintances, or complete strangers, it doesn't really matter. Say anything you want about the dead. They can't contradict you.

Depending on where you wind up, you might want to avoid them in the afterlife, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it – and you will cross it, whether you want to or not. In the meantime, though, the living have the upper hand.

Authors of scurrilous biographies often exploit the taciturnity of the dead, peppering their prose with the most lurid of details about terminated lives. What's the ruination of a reputation when bestseller bucks beckon?

But writing is hard work. Why go to all that trouble when you can sue the dead instead? You present your case, the deceased defendant makes no response, you win by default. Piece of cake.

Just ask Tonya McCoy of Madison County. She's suing the estate of the dead grandmother of her daughter for an ankle injury the granddaughter allegedly received while jumping on her grandmother's trampoline in Collinsville. At the time the grandmother was still alive and therefore subject to a charge of negligence.

McCoy waited a year to file suit, during which time the grandmother died and took her side of the story to the grave.

It's possible that the grandmother of her daughter was her own mother, but the dead defendant could have been McCoy's mother-in-law – or her ex-mother-in-law, or have some other connection to the family tree. Relationships can be complicated nowadays.

In any case, McCoy is suing the estate of her daughter's grandmother for more than $100,000 in damages to compensate for the ankle injury. That's a new way to seek family value.

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