A marriage law specialist tells RadarOnline.com Gary Coleman’s ex-wife Shannon Price could have had the authority to take him off life support, even though the couple was divorced.
Utah is one of 10 states which has legislated common-law marriage.
“In the state of Utah, as long as you live together and act like husband and wife and file joint tax returns, have joint accounts, etc., you’re considered husband and wife under the state’s common-law statute,” divorce attorney David Pedrazas, who practices in Salt Lake City, told RadarOnline.com.
What’s unclear is if the Diff’rent Strokes star and Price continued to meet those legal requirements after their 2008 divorce.
Coleman’s attorney, Randy Kester, said on Wednesday he never told him that the two had remarried after splitting because of “irreconcilable differences.”
Coleman died last Friday, at the age of 42, after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
Price reportedly made the decision to pull the plug on life support.
If the couple was not married under common-law, according to Pedrazas, the actor’s estate could argue liability — and blame could be pointed at Price and/or the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where he died.
“Otherwise any person that doesn’t like you could just walk into the hospital and say, ‘I’m your wife, I’m your husband’ and pull the plug,” Pedrazas said.
“That’s a very serious decision and not something to be taken lightly… there’s a possible wrongful death action suit.”
According to the hospital, Price identified herself as Coleman’s wife and wasn’t asked to provide documented proof.
However, Kester said he didn’t know whether Price had power of attorney to make medical decisions on Coleman’s behalf.
It’s unclear also if Price was his health care proxy.
Coleman and Price, 24 had a history of domestic violence within their rocky relationship.
In February, Coleman pleaded guilty to domestic violence after spending time in a Santaquin, Utah, jail.
Last year, Price also spent time in lockup after being arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and disorderly conduct.
Police said Price trashed the bedroom and locked Coleman out of the house.
The couple reconciled after an appearance on the Divorce Court where Price described Coleman as distant and depressed.
Coleman was jailed again in January and RadarOnline.com was there when he was released on bail.
When asked if there were problems in their marriage, Coleman referred to Price as his “wife” and responded: “I can’t talk about my marriage like that, my wife would kill me.”
In an chilling 911 call released on Wednesday, Price can be heard asking a dispatcher to send help for Coleman, who she says fell and suffered a head wound.
Price describes a ‘gory’ gash on the back of his head, says he is ‘bubbling at the mouth’ and there’s ‘blood everywhere’ as her husband moans in the background.
The ex-wife begs the operator to make the ambulance hurry, but says she feels unable to help Coleman herself because she felt squeamish.