Can I pursue Wrongful Death case even if the suspect was found not guilty? 29 Answers as of November 19, 2013

My son was murdered in a city park. There were cameras in the park but not working on the day he was murdered. The city maintains the park and since has put up fences, and the cameras are not operable. Two suspects were arrest and the shooter was found guilty and the brother (2nd suspect) was found not guilty. Can I pursue wrongful death cases?

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Durham Jones & Pinegar | Erven Nelson
Yes. The burden of proof is much lower for civil cases (like the one you would file) than for criminal cases. Remember the OJ Simpson cases? The prosecution did not succeed in the criminal case for various reasons, mainly because they had to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. But, the family won its civil suit for wrongful death damages.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 11/19/2013
Pete Leehey Law Firm, P.C.
Pete Leehey Law Firm, P.C. | Pete Leehey
I'm sorry to hear about your son. A not guilty finding against one of the suspects does not keep you from pursuing a wrongful death case. The standard of proof required to convict somebody of murder is much higher than the standard in a wrongful death case. This is exactly what happened in a very high-profile case you probably recall, that involving O. J. Simpson. The more practical problem will be whether either of these suspects has insurance that will cover the incident, or sufficient personal assets to pay a judgment.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 11/6/2013
The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers
The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers | Andrew Myers
You can pursue a civil case even where the criminal prosecution failed. Recall O.J. Simpson, who was found 'not guilty' in the criminal trial, but who was found liable and responsible in the later civil case. Hire an attorney ASAP to meet the requirements of the Massachusetts wrongful death statute.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 11/6/2013
Michael Breczinski
Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
Yes you may just as they pursued cases like that against O.J. Simpson even though he was found not guilty.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 11/6/2013
Oscar E. Toscano | Oscar E. Toscano
You must file within the statutory time. 2 years in California. However, if you are filing against the county or the state, there are claim forms that must be filed within 6 months. In a civil case, the two could be held liable if they conspired together. It is a lower burden of proof. Consult with a good trial attorney and discuss the details in private.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/6/2013
    The Law Offices of Russell Gregory, P.C.
    The Law Offices of Russell Gregory, P.C. | Russell Gregory
    Hello, I am SO sorry to hear of this. You have my deepest sympathies. Yes, I believe the matter can be pursued.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/5/2013
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    You can. However, if your case is against the shooter and brother, I would think you would never collect whatever judgment you obtain.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 11/5/2013
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    You can, but there are serious questions as to whether it would be practical to do so. I know, it seems insensitive to discuss the situation in terms of practicalities, but the consequences of legal actions must be considered. As far as the assailants are concerned, yes you can pursue them because it would be a civil action, not a criminal one. Also, the standards of proof are different, making success more likely in the civil context than in criminal proceedings. Finally, you might be able to get judgments, but you might not be able to collect on those judgments. In fact, the probablility is rather low. Meanwhile, you would have to bear the burden of "transactional costs", filing fees, depositions, possible expert witnesses, subpoenas, exhibit preparation, it adds up. If you are thinking of going after the city, the first problem you will have is statute of limitations. You don't mention when or where this happened, but typically, municipalities are protected by short statutes of limitations and other procedural obsticals. Putting up fences after the fact is inadmissible, cannot be used as evidence of negligence, and I don't know how you would prove that if the cameras were working, they would have prevented the occurrence. Sorry for the bad news, but that's how I see it.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/5/2013
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C.
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C. | Jim Hasser
    Yes. A perfect example is the OJ Simpson case. He was found not guilty in the criminal case but liable in the civil case.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 11/4/2013
    Adler Law Group, LLC
    Adler Law Group, LLC | Lawrence Adler
    I am sorry for your loss. You do have a claim against the shooter but I would be willing to bet he has no assets and is judgment proof. If you feel he has assets such as a house or bank accounts you should bring a civil case.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 11/4/2013
    Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
    Yes, because the criminal case required a heavier burden of proof. But do the defendants have assets? You may not want to pursue the case simply because you may never collect anything.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/4/2013
    Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
    Against whom? You cannot sue the city because of Governmental Immunity. The "bad guys" probably have no money, no assets, and no insurance.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/4/2013
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    Just because he was found not guilty doesn't preclude you from filing a civil suit. The reason is because the burdens of proof are different. Just because they could not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that they cannot prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. Consult with an experienced and skilled civil attorney in your area that specializes in wrongful death suits to see if you have a case.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/4/2013
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    Against the killers yes. But do you know any killers who have assets?
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 11/5/2013
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    Maybe and maybe a claim against city you need to consult a personal injury lawyer as these matters are very complex.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 11/5/2013
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Can pursue a civil case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Barton Barton & Plotkin
    Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
    Yes but the question is whether you can collect damages. You won't prevail against the city merely because cameras are not working.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Pius Joseph A Professional Law Corp. | Pius Joseph
    Yes you can. Are you able to collect from these defendants. Do theory have assets? Do they have a home that they own? several issues to consider how you will collect the Judgment from them.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Gregory M Janks, PC
    Gregory M Janks, PC | Gregory M Janks
    You may certainly pursue a Wrongful Death case against anyone you can prove was at fault for killing your son and/or who has legal liability for the unfortunate occurrence. It would be best to consult with a local Michigan lawyer to explore your options. Governmental entities, such as a City, are usually immune from negligence suits unless the claim falls under a statutory exception to immunity. Individuals are responsible for their own actions, however you will have to prove the specific individual did the specific act of which you complain. With individuals there will generally be a potential problem with collectability of any Judgment, as no insurance covers intentional acts. You also need to explore the issue of damages which will include whether there was conscious pain & suffering, whether your son was employed/provided for others, what various family members relationship was with him, etc. There may also be issues of comparative negligence, depending on the facts of the occurrence. In short, there are many things that need to be looked at/considered, and an in person consultation with a local Michigan lawyer that handles Wrongful Death, assault and governmental liability cases would give you the best chance of getting a reasonable answer to your question.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    Potentially yes as the burden of proof is different in a civil action than in the criminal action. Your problem will be not be getting a verdict against the one frond guilty, and perhaps you can get a civil verdict against the one who was not criminally convicted, your real problem will be collectability. It is very doubtful the city will be found liable for the perpetrator's criminal acts simply because the camera's were not working. If you are in Michigan you are welcome to call 586-778-0900 to engage my firm, and with additional information.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    Yes, you may. That is what the Brown family did after O.J. Simpson did.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Wayne J. Wimer, Inc. P.S.
    Wayne J. Wimer, Inc. P.S. | Wayne J. Wimer
    If the murderer was found guilty and is now in prison, the likelihood of him having any economic resources is slim and none, so a civil suit against him may be a waste of time. If the murder occurred in a high crime area and the City was somehow responsible (in part) for the murder, there might be a cause of action against the City (This is highly unlikely however). Since there was a murder involved.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    Sure. If they could do it with OJ, you can do it as well. Of course, even if you win, will there be money to pay you?
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Law Office of James E. Smith
    Law Office of James E. Smith | James Smith
    You can but not against the city.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Belushin Law Firm, P.C.
    Belushin Law Firm, P.C. | Vel Belushin
    I think the OJ case has shown us that one can win a wrongful death case without a murder conviction. This would all depend on the facts and evidence in your case. Wrongful death has a lower burden to be proven than the criminal murder charge so different results are often possible. Speak with an attorney right away.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Robert C. Slim - Attorney at Law
    Robert C. Slim - Attorney at Law | Robert C. Slim
    Sure you can, but against who? If you want to go after the suspects, you might win, but I think you would have a difficult time collecting anything. If you are thinking about going after the City, I do not see what legal theory would permit a claim against the city.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    Yes. Remember the OJ Simpson case. He was found not guilty in the criminal case, but was found guilty in the civil case. Its a different burden of proof.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC | Stephen R. Chesley
    The question would be who would you wish to proceed against. The assailants are in jail, have no assets, and what would your case against the City be?
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Law Offices of Stephanie Lee Ehrbright, Esq.
    Law Offices of Stephanie Lee Ehrbright, Esq. | Stephanie Lee Ehrbright
    Yes. The civil case (wrongful death) is completely separate from the criminal case. You can pursue it. I would look for a personal injury attorney. Usually they do cases like that on commission so you would not have to pay anything upfront.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 10/31/2013
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