If you follow celebrity news, you’re no doubt aware that actor Jim Carrey has been the target of a wrongful death lawsuit. While it’s impossible for us to say exactly what happened in Mr. Carrey’s case, the suit raises a number of concerns, none of which should be taken lightly. Many of the issues which will be discussed as this case moves forward will be unique to this particular suit, but there are also issues which may turn out to be relevant to many other wrongful death cases.
Many people might be wondering, because they haven’t had personal experience with such a case, what exactly qualifies as wrongful death? What does that term mean in our legal system, and what can happen to a person if he or she is found responsible for causing a wrongful death?
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is not a criminal charge, unlike assault or murder or negligent homicide. When those criminal acts occur, the state will file charges and pursue justice directly. A wrongful death claim, on the other hand, is a civil action taken by the surviving family members of a victim to recover financial damages for both actual expenses and the pain and suffering related to the death. The defendant in this type of personal injury suit stands accused of causing the victim’s death by negligence or misconduct and might previously have been found guilty in criminal court. But they also might not have ever faced trial, or might have been found not guilty of criminal charges.
How Responsible Is Responsible?
Those accused of wrongful death may not seem to be directly responsible. Their level of culpability can still be decided by a jury. For instance, a case now underway is attempting to recover damages from the company that manufactured one of the guns used in the Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012. The company didn’t pull the trigger and didn’t sell the guns directly to the shooter, but the plaintiffs argue that the company’s advertising sent specific, dangerous messages which may have influenced the shooter. Their claim is that the company should have foreseen this kind of result.
A similar idea has been put forth in the Carrey case. His girlfriend died of a prescription drug overdose last year, and her husband, with whom she had no contact at that point, claims that Carrey supplied her with dangerous drugs when he knew that she was prone to depression and had previously attempted suicide. Her death by overdose, the filing states, “was predictable and foreseeable” by Carrey.
Could Carrey Be Found Liable?
To those unfamiliar with cases of this sort, it might seem like there is no way that Carrey could be found responsible. However, the possibility exists. The standard of proof in a civil action like wrongful death is typically “a preponderance of evidence,” not the stricter standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal trials. If, after hearing testimony, a jury determines that there is enough evidence, they could decide in favor of the plaintiff. The key to any suit like this is determining whether the defendant (in this case, Carrey) showed negligence, and if so, whether it was to a degree that justifies holding him accountable.
This suit doesn’t seek a specific amount in damages, but in addition to assigning blame in these cases, a jury usually decides the amount, if any, to be awarded. Some awards are small, but the amount involved could also be enormous. In the civil suit against O.J. Simpson following his acquittal for murder, the families of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman were awarded $33.5 million. In 2013, a court awarded a thirteen-year-old girl $150 million after the death of her family in a car wreck. In 2014, a Florida jury ordered tobacco company R.J. Reynolds to pay an astounding $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died from lung cancer. These results aren’t typical, but they show that a large payout could happen if a jury finds Carrey to blame.
Orange County California Wrongful Death Lawyers
If someone close to you has been the victim of a wrongful death, we deeply sympathize. These things should not happen, and that’s exactly why this area of civil law exists. By holding the negligent parties accountable, you not only alleviate the financial burden this death caused (medical and funeral expenses, lost wages and income, and so on), you also help put other negligent parties on notice by sending the message that they’ll be held answerable if they allow similar deaths to occur.
Give Dickson Kohan & Bablove, LLP a call to discuss your situation. The consultation is free, and you’ll only pay us for representing you if we win your case. Our number is 1-844-404-2400 or you can reach us by completing the form at the bottom of this page. You can also use the LiveChat feature of this website to have some of your questions answered right now.