Criminal & Civil Suits
In a criminal case the state (where the unlawful offense occurred) will bring charges against the offending party before a judge and often, a jury. In a civil suit, charges are brought by an individual or group citing some sort of harm whether physical, financial, or other.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit in which a family member or loved one of a deceased individual files a claim against a person, company, group, or other entity claiming negligence or harmful intent that caused the death of their loved one. Most often the award is financial and is decided based on factors such as the decedent’s age, family situation or character, and earning potential.
A landmark wrongful death suit is one that goes beyond the original claimants cause and is studied for its legal and or historical significance.
Types and Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
There are certain elements that must be present to even file a wrongful death claim. Those elements are:
- The death of a person
- Loss of finances or financial injury to the survivors or representatives of the decedent and his estate
- Reasonable proof of negligence or harmful intent by the defendant
Some common claims and examples of wrongful death are:
Auto accidents often happen due to reckless driving, inattention by the driver or subpar or unsafe roadway conditions. One example of this type of case is a recent ruling in November of 2016 in favor of the plaintiffs, the parents of the two children killed in June of 2014 when an SUV careened off the road and down an embankment to where they were fishing with their father and two other adults. The jury found the driver and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at fault and awarded a 4.4 million dollar judgment against them with the driver, Shawnette Taylor responsible for 40% of the judgment and the state responsible for 60%. Another adult who was injured in this accident was awarded over 1 million dollars with the same split citing the state was negligent in sufficiently maintaining the road where the crash occurred. Taylor, the driver of the vehicle maintains that she had to swerve to avoid an oncoming vehicle but was nonetheless held accountable for 40% of the accident.
Plane, Train, and Public Transportation Accidents
In a recently filed wrongful death suit, a wife claims that the attendants on Southwest Airlines were responsible for her husband’s death for not offering appropriate medical attention when he was found to be writing and moaning in pain in the airplane’s bathroom. According to members of the flight crew, the incident was treated as a passenger involved disturbance instead of a medical emergency. Upon landing the other passengers were off boarded before the sheriff was brought on board to handle the “disruptive passenger” who was actually suffering from a pulmonary embolism.
Defective Products and Improper Labeling
In February of 2016 Johnson and Johnson was ordered to pay a 72 million dollar verdict to the family of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer related to the use of their product, Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder and other of their products containing talc. The jury found that the company was negligent in properly labeling the talc containing products with appropriate warnings of possible complications due to use. There are over a thousand pending suits and class action suits against the manufacturer for the same and other issues. The company maintains that their product is not the cause of these cancers.
Medical Malpractice or medication errors
In May of 2016 a jury awarded a 9 million dollar verdict to the husband of a 40 year old pregnant woman who died along with her unborn child at 32 weeks gestation. The jury found the hospital, the doctors, and the nurses negligent in properly caring for the mother of 5 which resulted in her death. This trial was uncommon because few medical malpractice suits make it to trial; most are settled. Further, this case ended up in federal court because the hospital was federally subsidized.
Intentional harm by another or harm caused by another person’s criminal act
Arguably one of the most notable wrongful death lawsuits in the media was the civil suit brought against O.J. Simpson, former football star, after he was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. While the jury in the criminal trial couldn’t find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the civil trial was concluded with an order to pay 33 million dollars to the victims’ families.
Workplace or occupational hazards or unsafe conditions
In October 2016, on the second anniversary of her husband’s death as a result of electrocution while on the job, Heather Garnett filed a wrongful death suit naming “Metal Shredders Inc., Cohen Brothers Inc., DP&L, Luke Huggins of Metal Shredders and 20 John Does” as the defendants in this cause. She alleges that due to safety violations cited by OSHA as serious they should be held responsible and accountable for the pain her husband endured from the injuries that resulted in his death and for the loss she and her family has suffered due to his death.
Recently, several wrongful death claims against public entities such as police and fire departments have been filed alleging misconduct, improper training, improper use of deadly force, and other accusations in the deaths of prisoners and suspects during arrests. In November 2016 a 1.9 million dollar settlement was reached in the wrongful death case of Sandra Bland, who committed suicide while in custody. Along with the monetary settlement, improvements were agreed to regarding the way officers are trained, in the booking and supervision of inmates, and in other procedures relating to mental and medical health issues.