Famous Wrongful Death Cases
In our previous blog article, we discussed the statutory basis and nature of wrongful death cases in Oregon. While wrongful death statutes vary from state to state, wrongful death actions are common across the country. Moreover, it often attracts national media attention when wrongful death actions involve celebrities, such as actors and singers.
Sometimes, these wrongful death actions result in trials and appeals, making it easier to track a particular case and its results. Other times, a case is filed or threatened, but settled out of court before a final trial, leaving the public to wonder about the result. Below, we’ll talk about some famous wrongful death cases.
Types of Wrongful Death Actions
People are almost universally interested in the lives of people with celebrity status. Wrongful death lawsuits sometimes attract even more interest as a result of both the finality of the unfortunate loss of life, as well as the variety of ways in which the loss of life can occur. The following list illustrates a few of the many ways people lose their lives which might lead to a wrongful death case:
- Car and truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
- Airplane and helicopter crashes
- Motorcycle accidents
- Hospital negligence
Celebrity Wrongful Death Actions
Below is a discussion of only a handful of the many high-profile wrongful death cases making the headlines.
Aaliyah Haughton, known by her stage name “Aaliyah,” was a popular singer and actress who sold millions of albums. Tragically, in the summer of 2001, at the age of 22, she died in an airplane crash after making a music video for one of her singles in the Bahamas. The crash occurred very near the runway, shortly after take-off. An investigation determined the plane was overloaded. Questions were also raised concerning the pilot. Aaliyah’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against numerous defendants, including the recording company and the company that employed the pilot. The parents eventually settled the lawsuit.
2. Anton Yelchin
Anton Yelchin was an actor in movies and television shows, perhaps best known for his roles in recent Star Trek movies. One morning, in June 2016, Mr. Yelchin died when his Jeep Grand Cherokee pinned him against a gate at his home. The actor’s parents filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, including for punitive damages, alleging that their son’s vehicle was defective. The case was eventually settled out of court.
Yelchin’s Jeep Grand Cherokee had been one of the 2014 and 2015 models recalled that year over “confusing” gear shifts that may have contributed to the accident. The recall campaign was accelerated after Yelchin’s death.
3. O.J. Simpson
In one of the most famous criminal trials of our time, former football player, television personality, and actor O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Those who are old enough to remember the criminal trial certainly will recall the non-stop television coverage, the constant legal analysis, and the emotional responses to the verdict.
However, the story did not end with the jury verdict in the criminal trial. The families of the two murder victims sued Simpson civilly for wrongful death, alleging that he intentionally killed the victims. A jury, in 1997, ultimately awarded $8.5 million in compensatory damages to the Goldman family, and awarded $25 million in punitive damages to both families.
The disparate results between the criminal trial and the civil trial are confusing to some people. However, as we have discussed in the past on this blog, there are a number of important differences between civil and criminal trials. For example, in a criminal trial, the government must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, on the other hand, the plaintiff must only prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not.
Additionally, in criminal cases, a defendant has the right against self-incrimination, while in a civil case a defendant has no such right. These are some of the differences that led to the differing results between the two trials.
4. Brittany Murphy
In 2009, actress Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia and anemia. Just a year later, her husband died of the same causes. When toxic mold was found in the house they had shared, Murphy’s mother Sharon sued the building company for wrongful death caused by the mold, but the case was settled out of court. Sharon would later sue the attorneys who counseled her during the original lawsuit for misrepresenting her legal rights.
5. Michael Jackson
When Michael Jackson died in 2009 of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication, his physician Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, two of which he served. However, members of the Jackson family went on to sue both Dr. Murray and the AEG lawyers who had hired him for the wrongful death of Jackson. While the suit against Murray was dropped, the suit against AEG went to trial, where the jury ruled in favor of AEG, finding that they had not been negligent in their hiring of Murray.
Call for a Free Consultation
As demonstrated by the examples above, wrongful death actions can arise from many types of negligent and intentional acts. If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful acts of another, whatever those wrongful acts may be, we have experienced attorneys who can help you analyze the case and hold the wrongdoer responsible. Please call us with any questions or for a free consultation.