Wrongful Death in California

Wrongful Death in California

What is Wrongful Death?

            In the state of California, a Wrongful Death claim is recognized when the catalyst of an individual’s demise rests at the feet of another person or entity due to negligence or a wrongful act. Only over the last century has the concept of wrongful death become accepted in the legal world, as it was not allowable under the Common Law. The broad spectrum on which we can find the causes of such ranges from occupational (on-the-job) accidents and medical malpractice, to supervised daycare activities and nursing home abuse/negligence.

Who Can File and Recover from Wrongful Death Suits?

            Every state has its own laws regarding who may file a wrongful death suit. In California, the California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60 reserves that right for the surviving spouse of the deceased individual, the deceased individual’s domestic partner, the surviving children of the deceased individual, and anyone may have entitlement to the deceased individual’s property by virtue of intestate succession. In more complex cases, it is possible for a deceased individual’s putative spouse, stepchildren, and parents to file and recover if they can provide proof of dependency.

Notable Wrongful Death Suits

            In 2017, a jury in Los Angeles County awarded the sum of $3.6 million to the family of Nicholas Robertson, a 28-year-old man killed in 2015 by two sheriff’s deputies after they unloaded 33 rounds, 16 of which hit him. The man had been spotted by the deputies, wielding an unloaded handgun, at which point it is said he blatantly ignored their command to drop it. The sheriff’s training for such matters and the deputies’ actions did not coincide. The man died from two of the bullets that struck him.

            Wrongful death stemming from medical malpractice has also been on the rise over the last, few decades. A recently released John Hopkins study suggested that medical errors are, in fact, the third leading cause of deaths in the United States. In December 2015, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco was in hot water after the death of a patient who suffered massive blood loss and heart failure due to hospital staff not monitoring the patient’s dialysis catheter. The facility was fined $47,025.00. That was not the only time in a year’s span that the medical company found itself in trouble. In April of 2016, a patient suffered a death by respiratory failure due to the lack of adherence to established procedures regarding the patient’s tracheostomy tubes. Again, a fine was ordered, but to the tune of $100,000.00.

            A more recent incident relating to a budding wrongful death suit surrounds the suicide of a 13-year-old girl in California. Rosalie Avila committed suicide after enduring merciless abuse and bullying from the likes of her classmates. Her family has filed a wrongful death suit against the school district, claiming the district was fully aware of the situation, but failed to initiate any resolutions. They claim that school officials were also aware that Rosie was cutting herself and failed to make any sort of intervention. The Avila family also hopes to work together with lawmakers when they bring forth a proposition for new legislation that will advocate for stricter bullying laws.