Family Law

Brain-injured man can't marry, judge rules

An Illinois man who suffered a brain injury during surgery in 2009 can’t marry his girlfriend of 38 years because he doesn’t have the capacity to consent, a Rockford judge has ruled.

Judge Lisa Fabiano says she has no doubt that John Morris would like to marry long-time girlfriend, Colette Purifoy, and no doubt that Purifoy is utterly devoted to the man, the Rockford Register Star reports. But state law requires the capacity to consent, and there is no provision allowing a guardian to consent on behalf of a ward, Fabiano ruled last week.

Morris is under 24-hour nursing care at the home where he lives with Purifoy, who is legal guardian of Morris’ estate. Court documents say the brain injury has left Morris in a vegetative state, according to a prior story by the Register Star.

Purifoy says Morris had proposed, though they hadn’t married. They owned a home and had combined their financial assets, however, and they have a child together. Each also has children from prior relationships.

The Winnebago County Clerk had refused to issue a marriage certificate, citing state law that requires each person to sign the marriage application and to appear before the clerk.

Purifoy’s lawyer, Nate Reyes, says the couple had been in love for decades. “Anyone doubting that’s a true relationship here, or that she’s doing it for some sort of financial gain … she’s spent the last three years of her life attending to this man who is, effectively, brain dead, with no promise of any reward,” Reyes told the Register Star. “That’s a demonstration of true love.”

A previous ruling allowed Purifoy to be considered an heir if Morris dies, Reyes told the Star. A prenup agreement would have specified that any proceeds from a future malpractice award would be considered a nonmarital asset.

Hat tip to ISBA Legal News.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.