Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

After a 38-year-old man was shot and killed, his mother and his five-year-old son filed survival and wrongful death claims against the shooter. The man was killed in August 2009, and on June 9, 2015, the man’s mother and the man’s then five-year-old son filed a complaint against the shooter. They alleged wrongful death based on negligence, a survival action based on negligence, wrongful death based on gross negligence, a survival action based on gross negligence, wrongful death based on battery, a survival action based on battery, and fraudulent conveyance.

HourglassThe defendant moved to dismiss the case, and the court granted the motion to dismiss as to the wrongful death claims because the court said they were filed too late. The plaintiff appealed the decision, and in a recent decision, a state court of appeals reinstated the claims.

Under that state’s laws, a wrongful death claim had to be filed within three years of the date of death. However, the state provided exceptions under certain circumstances. One statute provided that a wrongful death claim filed by a minor plaintiff was tolled during the period of minority. Another statute stated that if a plaintiff did not know about a claim due to an adverse party’s fraud, the time period for the claim began to run when the party discovered or should have discovered the fraud through ordinary diligence.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia jury awarded a woman $15 million in financial compensation for the injuries she received in an April 2015 truck accident. According to a news report covering the recent verdict, the case proceeded to trial after the accident victim and the trucking company were unable to reach a mutually acceptable result in pre-trial negotiations.

Semi-TruckThe accident giving rise to the case occurred on a Georgia highway. A car full of six Louisiana nursing students was on their way to their final day of clinical training in a Savannah hospital. Along their way, a traffic jam formed, requiring they come to a complete stop on the highway. After a few seconds of being stopped on the highway, a semi-truck came from behind, ramming into the rear of the students’ vehicle. The truck was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Five of the six students in the car were killed.

A subsequent investigation discovered that the truck driver did not apply the brakes at all in the moments leading up to the accident. The driver later pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and received a sentence of five years’ incarceration followed by five years’ probation. The families of the deceased students filed wrongful death cases against the truck driver’s employer. These lawsuits were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. However, the lone survivor in the car was unable to reach an agreement with the trucking company, which initially only offered to pay her medical expenses.

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A state appellate court recently published an opinion that allowed a plaintiff’s wrongful death case to proceed. Based on this latest ruling by the highest state court and its ultimate authority over questions of state law, the plaintiff may yet receive compensation for his negligence claim.

CowThe plaintiff in the case of Hain v. Jamison is the husband of a woman who was struck and killed by one of the defendants in a roadside accident that occurred one evening when the decedent exited her car on a rural road to assist a day-old calf owned by another of the defendants that had escaped its enclosure and was walking on the roadway. The plaintiff sued the other driver for negligence, as well as the owner of the farm that allowed the calf to escape.

The farm denied legal responsibility for the woman’s death, arguing that the negligent acts of the other driver and the decedent herself were intervening causes that prevented the farm from being liable for the death, even if a jury did find that the farm had negligently allowed the calf to escape.

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The Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a jury verdict in favor of a defendant after a trial was held on the plaintiffs’ allegations surrounding the death of their 23-month-old son. The boy drowned in a pond after he climbed from his crib in the middle of the night and left his home, getting past a doorknob cover that was intended to keep the child from using the door. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court was mistaken in permitting testimony that the boy’s mother failed to secure a secondary chain lock on the door on the night of the boy’s death.

DoorknobThe Tragic Drowning of the Plaintiffs’ Child

The plaintiffs in the case of Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group were the parents of a boy who died after he wandered from the family home in the middle of the night and drowned in a nearby pond. The boy’s parents awoke in the morning to find the front door to their home ajar and the boy missing from his crib. Minutes later, the boy’s father found him floating unresponsive in the pond, approximately 50 yards from the home. The defendant in the case was the manufacturer of a doorknob cover that the couple had received as a gift and had been using to keep the child from operating the front door. After the boy’s death, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the doorbell cover was a dangerous product that failed to work as intended and that it was negligently manufactured and marketed by the defendant.

The Jury Found the Defendant Was Not at Fault at Trial

The plaintiffs’ product liability and negligence claims went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. During trial, evidence was introduced over the plaintiffs’ objection that the parents had previously witnessed their son defeating the doorknob cover, and they installed a chain lock on the front door after noticing this. The defendant argued at trial that the plaintiffs knew the doorknob cover wouldn’t keep the child from leaving the home, and they were negligent by failing to use the additional lock. The jury was not required to explain their decision on the verdict form and indicated only that the defendant should not be liable for the boy’s death.

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The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently released a decision granting a plaintiff’s request to prevent the enforcement of an order issued by the judge presiding over a wrongful death case. The initial order had denied the plaintiff’s request to amend their complaint and add additional defendants of whom the plaintiff was initially unaware. Although the state supreme court denied the plaintiff’s request to immediately force the trial judge to grant their motion to amend the complaint, the most recent ruling will result in further proceedings at the district court level to determine if the plaintiff is entitled to hold the additional parties responsible in the wrongful death case.

NurseThe Plaintiff’s Claim of Nursing Home Neglect and Wrongful Death

The plaintiff in the case of Maree v. Willow Park Health Care Center is the personal representative of the estate of a woman who died while she was a patient at a long-term nursing facility operated by the defendants. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the lawsuit alleges that the defendant negligently failed to respond to an assistance call made by the patient, resulting in her suffering injuries in a fall while she attempted to use the bathroom unassisted. The plaintiff’s claim further alleges that the defendants failed to adequately respond after the patient was injured, ultimately resulting in her death two days later. Based on the alleged negligence of the nursing home operators, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant.

The Plaintiff’s Attempt to Pierce the Corporate Veil is Denied

After filing the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff became aware of additional parties who acted as owners/managers of the defendant nursing home corporation and sought to add them as defendants to the case. Although corporate owners and members cannot generally be held personally accountable for negligence committed by the corporation, the plaintiff argued that case discovery would find evidence that the additional defendants were personally involved in the daily operations of the nursing home and could be held personally accountable for their role in the patient’s death. After hearing argument on the plaintiff’s motion, the trial court ruled that the proposed defendants could not be added and denied the plaintiff’s request to conduct additional discovery on the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and sought an order blocking the enforcement of the trial court’s order.

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The Supreme Court of South Carolina recently released a decision reversing a lower appellate decision that determined the defendant nursing home maintained their right to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim against them, filed on behalf of the plaintiff’s deceased mother. The state supreme court determined that by litigating several issues both before and after the decedent’s passing, the defendant had given up their right to enforce an arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiff when her mother moved into the nursing home.

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The Plaintiff’s Mother’s Health Declined Quickly after Moving into the Nursing Home

The case of Johnson v. Heritage Healthcare was filed based on the plaintiff’s mother’s quickly deteriorating health and eventual death while living in a nursing home operated by the defendant. According to the facts recited in the supreme court opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was in good health when she moved into the home, but her condition dramatically worsened within six months of moving in. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s negligence resulted in her mother’s poor health and eventual death, and she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against them after her mother’s passing.

Prior to the Wrongful Death Lawsuit, the Plaintiff Sought Her Mother’s Medical Records from the Defendant

After her mother’s condition worsened but before her death, the plaintiff filed an action against the defendant, seeking her mother’s medical records to determine why her health had deteriorated so quickly while under the defendant’s care. Although the plaintiff had signed an agreement to pursue claims through arbitration rather than in a state court proceeding, the defendant responded to the plaintiff’s claims in state court. The defendant vehemently resisted the plaintiff’s attempt to access her mother’s medical records, refusing to turn them over after the court ordered that they do so. Until her mother died, the plaintiff was unable to access her medical records in spite of the court’s order compelling the defendant to release them.

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By this time, most people have heard at least something about the tragic degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE. This brain injury has been making headlines across the United States as it was recently discovered that many professional athletes have been suffering with this deadly disease.

passing-the-ball-1532205In the past, CTE was most frequently associated with professional boxers. In fact, it was often called “punch-drunk” syndrome. It is a type of brain damage which is caused by repeated trauma to the head. It is considered a degenerative disease because it persists and worsens over time, and eventually leads the brain to be susceptible to atrophy.

Sadly, the symptoms of CTE are particularly devastating. The most reported symptoms include impulse control issues, memory and cognition impairments, confusion, early-onset dementia, and other mental health problems. As the disease progresses it can lead to behavioral issues including: aggression, severe depression, and even suicidal tendencies. Until very recently, the disease could only be diagnosed after the individual has passed away. There has been some research that revealed signs of CTE just prior to a football player’s death; however, it is still generally considered to be a condition that can only be diagnosed after death.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALinda Porter’s son, Pete Thomas, died 12 years ago in a New Port Richey hospital. Now Porter goes to rock concerts and imagines her long-haired guitarist son with her in the audience. This April, Pete would have been 50 years old.

In October 2014, the 38-year-old was admitted to the Morton Plant North Bay Hospital with abdominal pain. Less than 24 hours had passed before he went into respiratory arrest and was put on a ventilator. He died roughly six weeks later. Porter believes the hospital caused Pete’s death by over-medicating him.

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A Florida appellate court recently reversed a lower court’s ruling that when the amount of the judgment in a tort case is modified on appeal, post-trial interest must accrue from the date of the verdict rather than from the date of the original judgment. The court reasoned that the earlier accrual date in such circumstances unjustly punishes the losing party.

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In the fall of 2011, a jury rendered a verdict of roughly $7.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, finding appellate Shoemaker 40 percent at fault for decedent Stephen Sliger’s death. Following the verdict, Shoemaker and his co-defendants filed a motion to cap non-economic damages according to section 766.118(2) of Florida Statutes. They argued that under 766.118, the non-economic damages should be capped at $500,000. Sonia Sliger, the representative of Stephen Sliger’s estate, responded that section 766.118’s damages limitation violated the Florida and U.S. constitutions.

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file931265651210 morguefile AlvimannIn Soto v. McCulley Marine Services, Inc., a man tragically drowned near Longboat Pass on July 4, 2009 when he fell from a jet ski and was sucked underneath a moored barge while wearing a life preserver.   At the time of the unfortunate drowning, a nearby dock was being used as a staging area in connection with an ongoing artificial reef program established by Manatee County. When the man drowned, the barge and a 65-foot tugboat that were permitted to participate in the reef building program were both moored at the dock.

Following the man’s untimely passing, his estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the two ships. According to the man’s personal representative, the ships were docked in a negligent manner. As a result, the configuration of the vessels allegedly exacerbated the strong tides that were present in the area and caused the man to be pulled beneath the barge despite his safety jacket.

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