Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994 » Tierce v. Ellis - Significance, A Matter Of Inheritance, Presumption Of Paternity, Dissent Urges Justices To Decide By Facts

Tierce v. Ellis - Impact

dennis ray court paternity

The Tierce decision confirmed that Alabama's rule of repose is absolute--claims that have not been initiated within 20 years may not be brought to the courts. Because the rule of repose barred Sheila Ellis's claim refuting her father's paternity of Dennis Ray Tierce, Dennis Ray's status as the presumed son of William was unchanged. But the decision did not settle whether Dennis Ray Tierce was an heir to the estate. In a subsequent proceeding, the executors of William Tierce's estate filed for a declaratory judgment to determine whether the result in Tierce required that Dennis Ray be designated an heir under the terms of William's will. The trial court found that because William had never recognized Dennis Ray as his son and had specifically noted that his heirs should be his lineal, or biological, descendants, Dennis Ray should not be considered an heir. Dennis Ray then appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which upheld the trial court's judgment. In this case, Tierce v. Gilliam (1994), the court noted that "Although the rule of repose prevents a direct challenge to Dennis Ray's paternity, his resulting legal status as a `lineal descendant' cannot be asserted to thwart the testator's intent."

Though the ruling in Tierce v. Ellis cited the presumption of paternity as one of the "strongest presumptions known to law," it did not establish this presumption as absolute. In an earlier case in the Alabama Court of Appeals, Ingram v. State of Alabama (1978), the court had been presented with facts similar to those in Tierce--a child was born while its parents were still married, but the husband claimed he was not the father. In this case, the court noted that the presumption of paternity is not conclusive and can be overcome by proof of impotence or other conditions that would show paternity to have been impossible.

Tierce v. Ellis - Statute Of Limitations [next] [back] Tierce v. Ellis - Dissent Urges Justices To Decide By Facts

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