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A nasty fight over $1.1 million between a dead man’s daughter from a former marriage and his second wife — allegedly a prostitute whom he was planning to divorce — has landed in the state Supreme Court. Though the details read like a TV soap opera, the case actually contains serious issues about spousal rights and wrongful death actions. All six permanent justices voted Wednesday to hear it. Soon after crane operator Raymond Corder died in a construction accident in May 2001, Shaoping “Sherry” Corder — his wife of eight months — and Lisa Corder — his adult daughter from a first marriage — filed wrongful death actions that were consolidated. The two got a $1.1 million settlement, but couldn’t agree how to apportion it. At a subsequent trial, Lisa Corder presented evidence that she and her father were very close and that he had been preparing to divorce his new wife because she allegedly was working as a prostitute against his wishes. Giving the seemingly imminent divorce great weight, Orange County Superior Court Judge Randell Wilkinson allocated 90 percent of the settlement money to Corder’s daughter and 10 percent to his second wife. In a divided opinion, Santa Ana’s 4th District Court of Appeal on Sept. 26 upheld Wilkinson’s ruling. “The evidence credited by the court showed that at the time of Raymond’s death, Sherry had a reasonable expectation of perhaps four months of spousal support from a husband who had concluded it was a mistake to have entered the marriage,” Justice Raymond Ikola wrote. “The court found as a factual matter that the marriage was on the verge of ending, and it is not our role to second-guess that determination.” Justice Kathleen O’Leary concurred, but in a tempestuous 37-page dissent, Justice David Sills accused his colleagues of committing “a serious miscarriage of justice” and said they had “pretty much ignored about 150 years of California case law dealing with wrongful death damages.” Sills also argued that Ikola and O’Leary were, in effect, bringing back fault divorce — a concept abolished by the state Legislature more than 30 years ago — and said the two were just plain wrong in allocating the money based on evidence of Corder’s intent to leave his wife. “Underlying the trial court’s decision was the assumption that because of the wife’s fault, her support would have been less,” he wrote. “Perhaps that was the law 30 years ago, but today a divorced spouse who has acted badly during the marriage still has a greater legal entitlement to support than a self-supporting adult daughter!” Attorneys for neither side could be reached Wednesday. Sherry Corder is represented by El Segundo, Calif., lawyer John Heubeck, while Lisa Corder’s attorney is Ronald Harrington, of Newport Beach, Calif. The case is Corder v. Corder, S138666.

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