A plane goes trough some kind of atmospheric disturbance and ends up badly damaged, crashing after trying an emergency landing. Of 200 passengers onboard, only 80 survive, some of them badly injured (comatose, paralytic, crippled, etc). One year later, the exact same plane with the same 200 people appears out of nowhere and this time lands without any problem.

Basically, the question is: Will law consider the people of the second plane as the same person, as an impersonator or just as a new person? i.e.:

  • Would insurance companies be able to reclaim the payments they made, as their customers are alive and well?
  • If one of the dead passengers was a criminal going to trial, would the case be reopened?
  • Would a "reappeared" person be able to recover his money from the heirs?
  • Could survivors be legally forced to divide their money and properties with the "duplicates"?
  • Could a passenger disconnect the vital support of his comatose counterpart?


After reading the comments I have to agree with the general consensus that the question is too broad and open to answers more based on opinions that on actual "imaginative" interpretations of existing laws, even more difficult without knowing the legal system. As for that, I was afraid that setting the events in a given place would limit the answers or make it too much specific: While no modern democratic country has laws that take into account an anomaly in the space-time continuum, some may be more suitable than others (for this particular case) and that could give a hint on how a similar legal system would react.

Also, I've got several interesting and reasonable answers and now I see that it would be kind of difficult and arbitrary to accept one over the others, so I probably have to give it more time to articulate a better question. Thanks for all your help.


closed as too broad by Joe Bloggs, sphennings, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica, Sec SE - clear Monica's name, JBH Sep 26 '17 at 18:49

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ The exploration of any one of these questions could be an entire book, but I'd recommend focusing down to just one question and perhaps specifying what legal system you're under, or this question is remarkably broad. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 26 '17 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ Different nations would handle this differently $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 26 '17 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Does this occurence happen often in your world and laws have evolved already to adjust for when it happens, or is it an anomaly that had never before to knowledge happened and is being worked out for the first time as part of the plot? $\endgroup$ – N2ition Sep 26 '17 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ You're asking us to express para-legal opinions about a subject that has no precedent, no case law, no consideration, and isn't even believed to be an issue in real life. How would everybody react? Their initial reaction would be complete disbelief, so much so that scientific evidence would be ignored --- and that's assuming the evidence could be collected without force as one of the two parties will definitely not want to be involved with the other. Worst of all, there is no legal precedent for being "related" as a duplicate/clone/etc. There's no simple answer here. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 26 '17 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ If you want help with the work on a question draft you can check out the Sandbox on Meta. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Sep 27 '17 at 20:17

At least in Common law systems, there would be nothing at first that would stop both the "prime" and the "clone" person to claim they are the same. They can both board planes, travel abroad, access the same bank account because, as far as the existing law is concerned, it is exactly the same person, and nobody can just deny his or her rights.

But of course this can not continue. Even if "prime" and "clone" people have no conflict with each other, some third party (most likely a government authority) would try to intervene, which will end up in a lawsuit. The scope of this suit can be narrow, as whether both "John Does" are legally the same person, or more broad, as to what legal framework should regulate the existence of two John Does.

The narrow case "same person or not" would almost undoubtedly be decided against the sameness, establishing they are different. This will set up a legal precedent that should be extended to all passengers that have clones.

A broader case is more difficult to decide. It would be likely that "clones" would retain all citizen's rights, but not the civil rights (property, marriage etc.). This would also be a binding precedent. It is possible, but not very likely that "clones" would be considered a close family of "primes", because there is a suspicion that they might act against each other's interests.

But maybe the government would covertly intervene and lock up all the "clones" in a secret lab, so nobody is going to raise any questions.

P.S. The above logic would likely to play out in the scenario when "primes" and "clones" can be easily told apart. "Primes" would be presumed real people, and "clones" - product of some alien or magical interference. There will be strong suspicion in some circles that "clones" are not people at all. However, if there was an event that results in instant cloning of people and nobody would know who is who, legal situation will be more murky.

  • $\begingroup$ Again this depends heavily on the nation. A communist nation like North Korea or China could quickly decide to treat them as foreign spies and round them all up for summary execution on the tarmac. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 26 '17 at 17:23

Would insurance companies be able to reclaim the payments they made, as their customers are alive and well? I think insurance companies might be able to claim some or all of their money back depending on jurisdiction and the specifics of the insurance policy. There is no “serious” issue here simply the record of the persons death was made mistakenly. No doubt there would be much debate and some court cases, but the issue would be in proving identity if the living person maintained their original identity, they should be able to sort things out eventually as the dead person would not be arguing against them.

If one of the dead passengers was a criminal going to trial, would the case be reopened? The criminal trial would be an interesting one. If the returned person decided to take on a new identity claiming amnesia or similar then I doubt there would be a problem, but if they tried to reclaim their original identity then they would probably also argue themselves into court.

Would a "reappeared" person be able to recover his money from the heirs? I suspect that the reappeared could claim the money back from their heirs but it would take a long time and they might face an uphill struggle especially if the heirs decided to contest the case and claimed the returned person was in fact an interloper.

Could the survivors be legally forced to divide the money and property with their duplicate? No I don’t believe so. I don’t think any court would conclude that a person had been “duplicated” under any circumstances as it is so outlandish. It would probably generate a lot or court cases which would eventually be won by one party or the other. Although it could go on for years.

Could a passenger disconnect the vital support of his comatose counterpart? No I don’t think so. Legally they would have no claim as again the law would not recognise a duplicate person.


Missing the forest for staring at a sapling

As with this question, you are sort of missing the bigger picture here. A magic event has taken place. Real magic. The first verifiable magic ever in human history. The ruckus that will cause will wildly overshadow any such problems.


Assuming that scientists find some new fun physics that provide a mundane answer to this event, after a while the novelty of it all will die down. Then we can down to the boring stuff, like insurance, inheritance and similar.

The legalities of "coming back from the dead" will be somewhat hairy but not very much so. There are procedures — though rarely used — for what happens when an insurance claim turns out to be false. That is not very much of an issue.

The "twins" however will be hairy. There are no laws for that. This means that some laws would have to be made up in a hurry. And some fundamental legal principles would have to be re-examined. For instance, when it comes to crimes and punishment, non bis in idem ("Double Jeopardy") will probably kick into effect, meaning that the Johnnies will get a lucky break there. Property rights will most likely be the most difficult since both persons can claim equal rights to the properties.

The most interesting parts however...

...is the psychology of the event. How will people react to knowing that there is someone out there that knows everything about you, down to every last icky dirty secret.

And what about those that got injured in the crash but survived as disabled... how will they react when they see themselves in pristine condition? Will there be resentment? Jealousy? Hatred?

Is there to be any bonding?

— Hey you remember that time that we, I... I mean...

— Yes of course I do silly, I have the same memories as you!

Will there be Evil twins, ready to screw over their own "siblings" in order to gain an advantage? Here we go with the wicked secrets again. Also these twins are a bunch of cases of identity fraud waiting to happen. Or some really wicked gas lighting...

— Huh? What do you mean? I was never at... that never happened!

— Oh dear oh dear... that crash and skull fracture really did a job on your memory, didn't it darling.

So all in all the legalities of it will not be very interesting because a) most of it will be handled with existing routines b) the court will have to just wing it for the rest. But the inter-personal (or intra-personal?) drama will be amazing.


I'm fairly sure the law would resolve this in civil court with families driving the debate on a case by case basis.

First and foremost the law would not recognize the clones as the same people simply in order to avoid the catastrophe of allowing such conflicts. It would be unlikely that any government would be foolish enough to not see them as clones.

Families could fight to insist that their deceased loved one has returned and have the courts revise their decision on this instance uniquely.

Families could agree that the clone is an imposter with the state and retain their benefits.

preference would inevitably be given to the crashed plane as the originals as their status suffered no temporal gaps from the perspective of society.

Bottom line, much of this would be dependent on the nations legal system and individual circumstance of the individual and his family. However as mentioned, there would be some logical simplifications that society would make to smooth the legal process.


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