- Wrongful Death Lawsuits -

Information and Case Evaluation Center


Source: The Advocate

By: Dan Allen

Date: April 30, 2002

With Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel now awaiting their May 10 sentencing for the infamous dog-mauling death of their neighbor Diane Whipple, lawyers for Whipple's partner, Sharon Smith, have turned their attention to her pending wrongful-death civil suit. But this time Knoller and Noel aren't the sole defendants. Smith is also seeking damages against Rudolph Koppl and his wife, Annette Pucci-Koppl, owners of the San Francisco apartment building where the January 2001 attack took place.

Attorney Michael Cardoza is overseeing Smith's legal team, which includes representatives of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I call this the A team," Cardoza said. "A for Alexis. Diane Alexis Whipple."

The civil proceedings, for which a date has not yet been set, will focus on Koppl's negligence, since he was aware of the dogs' viciousness, Cardoza contends. "What the landlord did [by allowing Noel and Knoller to keep the dogs] was unconscionable," Cardoza said. The civil suit includes both survivor and wrongful-death actions and is the first time in California someone is being allowed to sue for the wrongful death of a same-sex partner.

Smith could be awarded a variety of damages under the wrongful-death action, including for the loss of her relationship and the loss of income Whipple would have contributed to their household, according to the NCLR's Kate Kendell. But the largest damages being sought are punitive damages, which are harder to get "because the jury [must] be convinced that an award is warranted to punish the defendants for their bad actions," Kendell said.

Source: Jet

Date: June 25, 2001

Leisa E. Young, mother of Providence Police Sgt. Cornel Young Jr., killed last year by fellow officers who mistook him for a suspect, recently filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city of Providence, RI. "I can't bring my son back," she said. "And I can't live with myself if I do nothing about it and it happens to somebody else." Represented by Atty. Johnnie Cochran, she also seeks unspecified punitive damages from the officers, their supervisors, the police department and the city. In the incident (JET, May 8, 2000), Sgt. Young was off-duty when he was shot and killed by officers responding to a report of trouble.

Source: Jet

Date: July 3, 2000

Deborah C. Carr, mother of Larry Hubbard, speaks during a news conference near the spot where her son was shot to death in the back of the head by a White Baltimore police officer. At left is attorney Johnnie Cochran, who filed a $60 million lawsuit on behalf of the family over the shooting. Also shown are attorneys A. Dwight Pettit and William H. Murphy Jr.. Police said Hubbard, a suspect in a car theft, was struggling with Officer Robert Quick for his gun when a second officer, Wayne Hamilton, shot him in the head. Several witnesses said the two White officers beat and then killed Hubbard while he was on his knees pleading for his life. Named as defendants in the suit are the two officers, the acting police commissioner at the time of the shooting, the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

Source: National Catholic Reporter

Date:  February 24, 2005

A Cook County, Ill., judge ruled that Alison Hiller and Todd Parrish can go forward with a lawsuit for wrongful death-against a fertility clinic that mistakenly discarded a frozen embryo from the Chicago couple. Fertility doctors said that it could mean the end of the in vitro fertilization industry, while prolife activists hailed the judge's comment that the Illinois Legislature intended embryos, from the time of conception, to be considered human beings.

Source: Law Reporter

Date: December 2004

The Supreme Court of Mississippi held a wrongful death beneficiary may not assign a wrongful death claim to one tortfeasor to be asserted against another joint tortfeasor.

Here, King's mother or another family member was filling a household generator with gasoline when some gasoline spilled on the floor. Fumes from die gasoline ignited, and King's mother suffered fatal injuries. King, as administrator of her estate, filed a wrongful death action against Rheem, die manufacturer of a gas water heater that was located near the generator, alleging the heater's pilot light had ignited die gasoline vapors. During settlement negotiations, Rheem suggested King join Coleman, die manufacturer of the generator, as an additional defendant. King declined to do so, but in die settlement agreement between the parties, he released Rheem from liability and assigned to it any rights he might have against Coleman. King then filed an amended complaint against Rheem and Coleman. The court subsequently dismissed King's suit and substituted Rheem as the real party in interest. The trial court denied Coleman's motion for summary judgment.

Reversing, die state high court noted diat although Mississippi law generally allows assignment of personal injury claims, this rule does not automatically extend to wrongful death claims. Rather, diese claims are governed by Miss. Code Ann. 11-7-13, which specifies the individuals who are entitled to bring such actions. Coleman argued that because the statute limits the authority to bring an action to specified individuals and does not specifically allow assignment of actions, assignment of a wrongful death action is not allowed. Finding this argument had merit, the court said the legislature could not have intended to allow a tortfeasor to settle with a wrongful death plaintiff and then subsequently sue putative joint tortfeasors using plaintiff's cause of action. The court reasoned that this would enable parties to circumvent the applicable statute controlling the right of contribution and allocation of fault.

Source: Law Reporter

Date:  October 2004

Doe v. Sullivan, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn., No. 02-1235 (JEL/JSM), Oct. 22, 2003.

Doc, 69, and his wife, 59, were crossing a road on foot when a Canadian bus ran a stop sign and struck them. Doe suffered fatal injuries. He had been a retiree and is survived by his wife and five adult sons.

Doe's wife suffered fractures to her neck at C2, humerus, femur, and clavicle, and cognitive injuries, among other injuries, and was in a coma for almost a month. Her past medical expenses of approximately $300,000 were paid by the county blue cross plan. A welfare office worker earning about $30,000 annually, she has been unable to return to work.

Doe's sons from his first marriage, individually, and Doe's wife, individually and on behalf of Doe's estate, sued the bus company and the driver. Doe's sons from his second marriage were trustees in the wrongful death suit. Suit alleged the driver was negligent in running the stop sign.

The parties settled during mediation for $3.1 million, including $2.5 million for the personal injury claim and $600,000 for the wrongful death claim. Doe's sons from the second marriage settled separately for a confidential amount.

Plaintiffs' expert witnesses in this case were Linda K. Graham, life-care planning, Roseville, Minn.; llael Rodning, economics, Rogers, Minn.; and Martin E. Finch, medical illustration, Minneapolis, Minn.


More wrongful death articles below legal issue Submit Form.





Additional Wrongful Death Lawsuit Information


In general, a wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit regarding a death that was caused by another person's negligence, recklessness, malpractice, and sometimes inaction.  In such cases, and depending on state law, families of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their loved one.  These lawsuits can help families recover damages for pain, suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, loss of companionship, related medical costs, and other expenses that have resulted and relate to the wrongful death.  So, if you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death incident, you may be eligible for an award of damages in the appropriate court. For more details, you should contact an attorney.

For a free evaluation, you can use the submit form provided below.


It is always a better idea to act sooner, rather than later, when dealing with legal matters. The closer it is to an accident, the easier time to investigate and identify who is liable for the injuries that resulted. This will increase the chances of recovering a higher amount of compensation for the personal injury. Some states have set a statute of limitation on the time frame you must file your personal injury case that will automatically disqualify you from recovering any compensation if you wait too long.

Wrongful Death Case Example
Date Facts

Decision (may be subject to appeal)


Judith Anderson's husband was killed in 2003 when his car was hit by a Schneider National semi-tractor trailer rig when Bradley fainted. Judith Anderson, individually, and as representative of the Estate of William Anderson, sued Thomas Bradley, Schneider National Inc. and Schneider National Bulk Carriers Inc. claiming that the defendants' negligence caused the wrongful death of Mr. Anderson (51 years old). Mrs. Anderson claimed that Schneider knew that Bradley had health problems that made it unsafe for him to drive a vehicle.

Plaintiff's verdict for $12.5 million.


Past Examples of Wrongful Death Lawsuits:

  • Automobile Accident

  • Trucking Accident

  • Tire Blowout Accident

  • Airplane Accident

  • Motorcycle Accident

  • Careless Actions by Another

  • Failure to Stop

  • Workplace Injury

  • Medical Malpractice

  • Hospital Negligence

  • Negligence

  • Product Liability

  • Dog Bite

  • Medicine Malpractice

  • Surgery Malpractice

  • Slip Accidents

  • other areas


       Frequently Asked Wrongful Death Questions:

  • Who might be considered as the survivors of a victim of wrongful death?  The survivors of a wrongful death victim may vary from state to state, but in general, usually the survivors include the spouse and minor children. Check with a Lawyer for specifics.

  • What compensation can be claimed in a wrongful death case?  Compensation may vary by state or jurisdiction but some examples include the following: (i) Expenses incurred by the death of the victim (funeral, medical, etc.); (ii) Loss of future earnings anticipated over the lifetime of the victim; (iii) Benefits lost due to the victims death (medical insurance, pension, 401K, etc.); (iv) Survivors pain, suffering and mental anguish caused by the victims death; (v) Companionship, care or protection lost to the survivors as a result of the death and  (vi) General and punitive damages.  Check with a Lawyer for specifics.

  • Who can file a wrongful death claim?  This depends on the individual state law, but in general the immediate family members (spouses, children and parents) can file a wrongful death claim. Some states allow grandparents, legal dependants and extended family members to file.  Check with a Lawyer for specifics.

  • Are there any limitations on who cannot be sued?  This depends on the individual state law, but in some states, a family member cannot sue another family member for wrongful death.   Check with a Lawyer for specifics.


A question that is often asked is, who has the right to file the lawsuit.  Although the answer to this question depends on which state the lawsuit is filed in, in general immediate family members (including parents, spouses, and children) are almost always eligible to file a claim.  For minors, the law may require the need for an adult guardian to take a wrongful death lawsuit to court. Additionally, other family members - such as stepparents, grandparents, and dependents, may also be permitted to file suit in some states.

Another common question what role can a wrongful death lawyer play in a lawsuit.  In general, a wrongful death attorney can help you gather important evidence, understand the relevant law, complete necessary paperwork and filings, and prepare a convincing lawsuit. Hiring an attorney can also help alleviate some of the stress you may be experiencing - by allowing you to understand your legal rights.


 Depending on state law and the specific facts, the type of damages that may be recoverable in a wrongful death include"

  • Medical and funeral costs

  • Lost wages, including future earnings

  • Lost benefits

  • Lost inheritance

  • Pain and suffering

  • Mental anguish

  • Loss of support or companionship

  • General damages

  • Punitive damages

A very important thing to remember about wrongful death lawsuits, is that basically every wrongful death lawsuit is subject to a statute of limitations.  In general, the statute of limitations caps the amount of time that a person who has lost a loved one has to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.


If someone you love has been the victim of wrongful death, you may want to have the facts reviewed by a lawyer.

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Wrongful Death Articles Continued

Source: Law Reporter

Date: December 2004

Cournoyer v. Mountain Creek, N.J., Sussex County Super. Ct., No. SSX-L-318-01, Aug. 2, 2004.

Cournoyer, 12, was skiing on an intermediate slope when she fell and struck lier head on a rocky embankment adjacent to the trail. She suffred fatal injuries. She is survived by her parents and two minor siblings.

Her father, on behalf of her estate, sued the ski slope resort and its owner, alleging the embankment was a design flaw that created a hazardous condition.

Defendants contended state law provides that skiers assume the inherent risks of skiing and thus Cournoyer assumed the risks associated with a fall. Plaintiff countered that the embankment was not an inherent risk because it was not an integral part of the sport of skiing, and defendants could have eliminated it.

The parties settled before trial for $225,000.

Plaintiff's experts in this case were John Hanst, siding, Green Village, N.J.; Harold Sobel, forensic pathology, Wayne, N.J.; and Matityahu Marcus, economics, Scotch Plains, N.J.

Defendants' expert in this case was Jasper Shealy, skiing, Rochester, N.Y.

Source: Law Reporter

Date: December 2004

Hinson v. Henderson, Tex., Cherokee County 2d Jud. Dist. Ct., No. 2002-11-0806, Mar. 2004.

Sarracino, 37, was driving a pickup truck in which his wife, Hinson, 28, and their five children were passengers. A car traveling behind them on the highway rear-ended the pickup truck, causing it to leave the road and roll over. Their son, 6, suffered fatal injuries. He is survived by his parents and four minor siblings. The other occupants of the car suffered scrapes and lacerations.

Sarracino and Hinson, individually and on behalf of the children, sued the driver, alleging he had been driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs. Defendant was convicted of criminal charges of intoxication manslaughter and assault and is now serving a 40-year prison sentence.

The parties settled during mediation before trial for $1.1 million, all of which will be paid by defendant's insurer.

Plaintiffs' expert witness was Miguel Gallegos, plastic surgery, Albuquerque, N.M.



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