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Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In legal jargon, wrongful death occurs when an individual dies due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another. In other words, if an individual, organization, or group can be held liable for the death of another individual, it is a case for wrongful death. The suit for wrongful death may be brought by the decedent’s immediate family members, known as distributes, including spouses and children.
In the United States, each state has its own civil wrongful death statute, establishing procedures for bringing wrongful death suits. Such actions can be brought about for personal injury to the decedent, personal loss, pain and suffering, and expenses incurred prior to the death of the decedent. The damage awards belong to the decedent’s heirs and other beneficiaries.
A wrongful death claim is brought in a civil action, which is separate from criminal charges. Wrongful death statutes do not apply to a fetus, which has no distinct legal status until
Ordinarily, the most common damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are compensatory damages. Some plaintiffs are lucky to recover even medical and funeral expenses, apart from the monetary support they could have received during the decedent’s life.
Sometimes the jury awards punitive damages in a wrongful death case if it finds the defendant's actions to be heinous or reckless. Punitive damages are awarded at the discretion of a jury to punish the defendant for their wrong action.
It must be proven that the defendant’s wrongful conduct was the proximate cause for the death of the decedent. This means that the defendant’s acts or omissions led to a natural, direct series of events leading to injury and death of the decedent. A wrongful death claim may be brought for any intentional or unintentional act leading to death of an individual in any of the following situations:
A number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been registered against Merck & Company for failing to warn NuvaRing users about health risks posed by the device, including pulmonary embolism, possible blood clot complications, and heart attacks. In March 2008, husband of a female who died after using NuvaRing filed a lawsuit against Merck, blaming the company for his wife’s death. The plaintiff alleged that Merck failed to disclose the health risks linked to the device usage, claiming that his wife would have been alive had she not used NuvaRing.
Many pharmaceutical companies knowingly hide serious side effects of the drugs manufactured by them. Wrongful death from defective drugs makes these companies liable for the consequences. Many such lawsuits have been filed in the country against pharmaceutical companies that produce defective drugs, which have been linked to serious side effects, including death.
Recently, Eli Lilly & Company settled to pay $1.42 billion for promoting off-label use of anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. A number of other lawsuits have been filed against Eli Lilly & Company by relatives of patients who died as a result Zyprexa side effects, claiming that the company failed to inform them of the drug side effects.
A number of incorrect diagnoses and medical mistakes occur each year, which sometimes lead to harm or injury. Cases of medical malpractice and negligence that lead to death of a patient are grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. In 2009, a Denton County Texas jury awarded a compensation of $3.5 million to the family of a woman who died as a result of misdiagnosed cancer. The plaintiffs blamed the hospital staff for not diagnosing cancer in the deceased, which might have ensured timely treatment for the victim.
Industrial or toxic exposure is the cause for death of many workers, which is a ground for wrongful death lawsuit. Toxic exposure can even lead to blindness, respiratory diseases, mesothelioma, hearing loss, cancer, and even death. Such employers that do not take proper precautions to ensure safety of their workers from toxic substances are liable to punishment.
In 2010, the widow of a deceased worker settled her wrongful death lawsuit against Cintas Corp., the largest uniform supplier. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff blamed wrongful working practices of the company managers that led to the death of her husband, a Cintas Corp. worker died after falling into the 300 degree industrial dryer. The lawsuit alleged that the company managers put profits before workers’ safety.
Negligent driving behavior accounts for the death of many individuals. When somebody dies as a result of negligence on the part of another party, it may be ground for a wrongful death suit. In 2008, a St. Louis couple registered a wrongful death lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court against Odesco Industrial Services, claiming that their son, riding in a vehicle, was killed in a car accident involving a truck of the company. The plaintiffs, seeking damages from the defendant company, blame negligence of defendants for the death of their son.
O.J. Simpson Case
In 1997, a court held footballer, actor, and sports broadcaster O.J. Simpson financially liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and another friend and awarded $33.5 million in compensation to families of the victims. Though Simpson was exonerated from the murder charges, the jury found that there was ample evidence showing Simpson’s responsibility for the death of the victims.
The family members of a 21-year-old Florida woman Melinda Ducket filed a wrongful death case against CNN anchor Nancy Grace in September 2006, alleging that the victim committed suicide following intense onscreen grilling by the talk show host. Ducket was confronted by Grace on the whereabouts of her two-year-old missing son.
In 1998, Brynn Hartman shot dead her comedian and actor husband Phil and then committed suicide. The family members of the deceased claimed that Brynn turned insane after she started receiving Pfizer’s anti-depressant Zoloft therapy. Pfizer paid an undisclosed sum to the families of the victims to settle the wrongful death.
A number of wrongful death suits were filed against Ford Motor in 1970s after gas tank explosions in its Pinto sedans caused fatal accidents. Ford paid more than $5 billion to settle a number of lawsuits.
In 2009, family of a 28-year-old woman was awarded $16.6 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The victim died of water intoxication while participating in a radio contest. The jury held the event organizers responsible for the death.
On 6 October 2011, the New York State agreed to pay $5 million compensation to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed over death of an autistic boy. The 13-year-old victim was crushed to death while being restrained by a worker of the NY Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The lawsuit highlighted serious deficiencies and negligence in the state care of disabled people.
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