Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

In the spring of 2005, a man who was heavily intoxicated barreled down U.S. Highway 278 shortly before Midnight in Double Springs. He slammed into another vehicle head-on, and the other driver was killed. The drunk driver was severely injured, suffering traumatic brain injury.

A year later, he was indicted by a grand jury on vehicular homicide for causing the death with criminal negligence by committing three traffic violations – driving drunk, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. However, before trial, defendant was deemed not competent to stand trial, and the criminal trial judge dismissed the charges with prejudice, meaning they couldn’t be refiled. The state didn’t appeal this order.

But then six years later, the state moved to indict again on these same charges, in spite of that order, on grounds defendant’s condition had improved. Recently, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the charges based on the new indictment, finding prosecutors never sought modification of that “with prejudice” order, and therefore had not covered all their procedural bases.
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The case of Herland v. Izatt began when an intoxicated party guest picked up a loaded gun belonging to the host and accidentally shot herself in the head.

Although the host/gunowner was not the subject of criminal charges for the horrific accident, the woman’s family filed civil negligence action, alleging general negligence, premises liability and negligent entrustment.

While the trial court in the case granted summary judgment to defendant, finding he owed no duty of care to his guest, the Utah Supreme Court reversed. Specifically, the high court ruled that gun owners do have a duty to exercise reasonable care in supplying a firearm to an intoxicated individual.
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When a loved one is killed as a result of someone else’s negligence or criminal act, a civil wrongful death case can focus at least partially on whether or how much decedent suffered prior to death.

This is often an especially painful and difficult element to address because no one wants to think about those last moments in which someone for whom they cared experienced deep distress, severe pain or great fear. Still, it may be necessary to address because courts allow for greater compensation when a person was aware and suffered greatly before death, as opposed to if the person died suddenly or had no awareness.

This has become an issue in a recent hit-and-run DUI wrongful death case in New York, where the family of an 18-year-old pizzeria worker is suing a doctor alleged to be responsible for her death. In Rice v Corasanti, the question of the victim’s pre-death pain and suffering has become central, and, unfortunately, hinges on a witness who has been inconsistent with her testimony.
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The trauma of losing a loved one as a result of negligence can be compounded when there is a dispute regarding who may be named personal representative of decedent’s estate.

The question is a crucial one because while multiple people may be dependents or have standing to collect on a wrongful death claim, only one person can file claim – and that’s the personal representative. This person must be named to this position before litigation can proceed.

Even then, it is not completely out of the ordinary for disputes to occur, as the recent case of Grant v. Wiley Sanders Trucking Lines, Inc., before the Alabama Supreme Court, reveals.
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In cases of wrongful death in Alabama, state legislators have limited the ability to file to the individual acting as the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. From there, any damages awarded will be distributed among legitimate claimants, which can include a spouse, minor children, adult children, parents and other dependents.

Disputes among family members regarding distribution of these funds is common, whether occurring with the personal representative of the estate or, in other states that allow individual family members to bring wrongful death claims, at the trial level. In either scenario, it’s a matter for the courts to decide, and having an experienced Montgomery wrongful death attorney to help guide you through the process can be invaluable.

In the recent case of Force v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., the Wisconsin Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether the guardians of minor children of a deceased man were entitled to collect damages for wrongful death, even though his estranged spouse was not permitted to make a recovery under the law.
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Per a new ruling by the California Supreme Court, large stores in California are not required to keep automatic defibrillators on hand to treat patrons and/or workers who suffer from cardiac arrest.

The plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit of Verdugo v. Target Corp. argued the retailer should have kept one of the devices on hand as part of its first-aid plan. Ultimately, however, the state’s high court found that would be an unfair burden for the retailer to shoulder.

Still, our Montgomery personal injury attorneys understand the courts left it open for lawmakers to decide whether a requirement to keep the life-saving devices on the premises is necessary.
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Dangerous drug interactions and medication errors account for some 7,000 deaths in hospital emergency rooms nationwide each year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Of course, such errors can occur in any type of health care facility, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities and dialysis centers. However, Montgomery wrongful death attorneys recognize emergency rooms as particularly risky because of the fast-paced nature of the environment. It’s easy for a decimal in a prescription order to become misplaced or for a doctor’s handwriting to be misunderstood by a harried nurse administering the drug.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that in a doctor’s office setting, a doctor may be counting on the fact that if there is a problem, a pharmacist will fact check him later. In an emergency room, it doesn’t work like that. Or at least, it didn’t used to work like that.
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A young boy in Montgomery was electrocuted when he came in contact with a broken chain link fence that had become electrified due to improperly secured wiring at a commercial building next door to his great-grandmother’s house.

Following his death, his mother filed a lawsuit against not only the owner of the property, but also the city inspector who had deemed the property to be in safe condition several months earlier. Recently, that case, Morrow v. Caldwell, was heard by the Alabama Supreme Court on the issue of state-agent immunity and damage caps.

When the mother filed the lawsuit against the city electrical inspector, she sued him in his official capacity. He responded by claiming state-agent immunity. She then amended her complaint to sue him in his individual capacity for “individual acts of negligence and wantonness that contributed to the death of (her son).” She alleged he hadn’t followed proper protocol, and had either intentionally or in bad faith allowed the property to be cleared for electrical restoration (it had been off for eight months prior, which is why the inspection was required).
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Sometimes in cases of Montgomery car accident injuries, at-fault parties may be facing criminal charges as well as the civil complaint.

For example, a drunk driver causes serious injury or death to others on the road, and is now facing felony charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI property damage.

It’s true that at the conclusion of some criminal cases, the judge may order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim, and this is achieved without the victim incurring the expenses that a civil case would necessitate. It’s also true that some courts may order that a civil proceeding be halted until the conclusion of a criminal case. (This was what happened in the recent case of Hardiman v. Cozmanoff, reviewed by the Indiana Supreme Court.)

However, this does not mean that a civil personal injury case is not worth pursuing or that you should wait any length of time before consulting with a lawyer or filing the case. In fact, there are a number of reasons why you should at least initiate the civil action prior to the completion of the criminal case.
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There are some critical care situations in which feeding tubes are ordered by doctors as a short-term solution to get nutrition to patients who are unable to eat.

It’s a relatively simple surgery, but is generally only recommended for extreme or complex conditions. However, for elderly patients and particularly those with dementia who struggle to swallow, feeding tubes have a tendency to become a longer-term answer to malnutrition.

Inserted through the abdominal wall and into the stomach, common complications of feeding tubes include diarrhea (which can in turn cause bed sores), as well as distress from having some type of foreign object in the body.
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