Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

In a recent case arising out of allegedly negligent medical care provided by the defendants, the court dismissed three wrongful death claims that were filed during the pendency of another wrongful death claim. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had filed a medical malpractice claim against her father’s doctor in one lawsuit, against another doctor in a second lawsuit, and against a medical center in third and fourth lawsuits. All of the claims were based on the same event:  the death of her father.

GavelThe court looked at an older case and explained that when two lawsuits involve the same parties and the same wrongful death claim, the court that first acquires jurisdiction retains jurisdiction over the case, and subsequent lawsuits are prohibited. The court explained that the first state court that has jurisdiction over a wrongful death claim then has exclusive jurisdiction over the case, and other subsequently filed claims should be dismissed. Thus, as long as a wrongful death claim is pending, other subsequently filed claims have “no effect.”

In this case, the plaintiff first filed a wrongful death claim for the alleged wrongful death of her father. After that claim was filed, she then filed three more wrongful death claims involving the same events. The court looked at the previously decided line of cases and determined that the subsequently filed cases were properly dismissed. The court explained the rule applied both in cases with multiple plaintiffs and in cases with multiple defendants. As a result, the subsequent cases were dismissed, and the only option the woman had to bring claims against the other defendants was try to amend her original complaint.

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In a recent case, Chrysler challenged a $40 million verdict against it after a tragic accident involving one of its Jeep vehicles. Evidently, a four-year-old was killed in a collision when a pickup truck hit the back of a 1999 Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee. When the pickup truck hit the Jeep, the Jeep’s gas tank was punctured, and the car caught fire. The child was in the backseat and died in the fire. The child’s parents filed a lawsuit against Chrysler, alleging that it acted with a reckless or wanton disregard for human life in its design or sale of the Grand Cherokee. They also alleged Chrysler breached a duty to warn the public of the danger.

JeepThe case proceeded to trial, and the jury found in favor of the parents. The parents were awarded $30 million in damages for their son’s wrongful death and $10 million in damages for pain and suffering. Chrysler was found to be 99 percent at fault.

Chrysler appealed the decision, arguing the court should not have denied its motion for a directed verdict. Before the jury deliberated, Chrysler had filed a motion for a directed verdict on the parents’ claims that Chrysler acted with a reckless or wanton disregard for human life and failure to warn. The claims were based on the allegations that Chrysler knew that the location of the fuel tank in the 1999 Grand Cherokee was dangerous but continued to manufacture and sell the car, failing to warn the public.

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In some cases, a plaintiff’s own conduct may contribute to an injury, decreasing the amount of damages awarded. In other cases, the plaintiff’s conduct may bar compensation completely. In a recent case, a boy’s family was barred from compensation after he was killed in a skateboarding accident.

SkateboardTwo brothers were skateboarding in a resort town when one of the brothers tragically died in a skateboarding accident. The two brothers had been riding their skateboards down a hill when one boy’s skateboard hit a small gap between the road and the concrete surrounding a manhole cover. The skateboard stopped, and the boy was thrown from the board. The boy was not wearing a helmet and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He ultimately died as a result.

The boy’s father and brother brought a wrongful death claim against several defendants, including the local water district and the local community association. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that by participating in skateboarding, the boy assumed the inherent risks of skateboarding. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant the summary judgment motion, since the claim was barred by the assumption of the risk doctrine.

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