A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil cause of action instituted by defendants and family members against an entity or person they are accusing of causing the death of another person through negligence. This is according to The Legal Information Institute. The same opinion is echoed by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which affirms that ‘wrongful death’ is attributed to a negligent act by another party, either by commission or omission.
To successfully launch a wrongful death lawsuit, they must prove that the defendant must exhibit negligent behavior, that the death occurred solely due to the party’s negligence, and that they suffered serious financial losses due to the aforementioned death. The most common causes of wrongful death in the United States include medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, defective products, accidental overdose and poisoning, negligent security, fires, and unintentional falls. We shall discuss the ten major wrongful death lawsuits in the history of the United States.
10. Judy Madere’s Family vs. Greenwich Ins. Co., & Others, Wrongful Death Caused by the A Wrongly Driven Tractor-Trailer ($280 million)
In perhaps the greatest ruling in Muscogee County, Ga, the jury hearing the wrongful death case of Judy Madere and Schnitzler Steel returned s $280 million verdict against the accused. According to News3, the two died in a 2016 road accident in July 2016 on the U.S Highway 80 when a tractor-trailer runs into their SUV.
The case was filed by Judy’s husband, Larry Madere, who accused the tractor-trailer driver, Kenneth Cathey, alongside Greenwich Ins. C., which owned the Schnitzer Steel Industries. Alabama State Troopers confirmed that they had responded to the accident. Although the incident occurred in Alabama, parties moved it to Columbus, where the residents were based. During the proceedings, it came out that the tractor had crossed the centerline hitting the SUV.
9. Kathleen White & Others vs. DaVita Healthcare Partners Incorporated, Wrongful Death After Receiving Dialysis Treatments That Caused Cardiac Arrests ($383.5 million)
The More Law highlights the proceedings of this case in one of the most extraordinary ways. The matter was presided over by Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the U.S District Court for the District of Colorado (Denver County). The plaintiffs advanced personal injury claims which resulted in wrongful death against DaVita Healthcare Partners. When awarding a $383.5 million award, the jury held that the health company acted negligently and concealed facts from the patients. According to the plaintiff’s lawyers, the facility knew that GranuFlo, one of the dialysis prescriptions, would lead to pH imbalances.
The lawsuit was based on the argument that the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of the GrunoFlo in 2012. The drug contained excess acetate, which could lead to metabolic alkalosis- a condition that leads to increased blood pH, causing heart attacks. To the plaintiff, it was the responsibility of DaVita to ensure that it reviewed the composition of GranuFlo before administering it to patients.
8. Family of McCoy vs. Frederick Wade & Others, Wrongful Death by Shooting and Attempting to Conceal Evidence ($495 million)
The deceased’s mother, Kalil McCoy, was left overwhelmed and speechless by Duval County after returning a $495 million verdict against classmates accused of killing her daughter. According to News 4 JAX, Fredrick Wade shot and killed Kalil after the two got into an argument while they were driving with four others. In his defense, Wade claimed that the gun went off accidentally, but that could not save him from a second-degree conviction resulting in 45 years in prison.
Jonathan Brooks and Kennard Mahone were also present during the incident, and they pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after they helped Wade to dump the body in a wooded area. When delivering the ruling, the jury also ordered that the accused persons compensate the family $3,680 for funeral expenses and an additional $10 million for the ‘lost services’ that the family would have gained in the future from the deceased.
7. Family of Mathew Rotell vs. Kristina Game, Wrongful Death by Drugging and Leaving Children in A Moving Vehicle ($500 million)
In 1999, Kristine Game, from Pasco County, killed her youngest son, Mathew Rotell, and unsuccessfully attempted the oldest one. Her ex-husband, Stephen Rotell, and the eldest son, Adam Rotell, joined hands and launched a lawsuit against Kristina, and to their success, they secured a $500 million award. The ruling came 17 years later when the respondent had already taken a plea deal, and she was out on parole. This is one of the most astonishing crimes in the Tampa Bay area. The accused drugged her boys, who were 6 and 8 years old, using morphine. She went ahead and placed them in a running GMC minivan and ran a hose from its tailpipe through the van’s window. Against her wishes, she survived with the oldest son.
At the time of the incident, there was a custody dispute between Kristina and her ex-husband. Kristiana had alleged that her ex-husband had sexually abused her, claims which she could not prove. In the murder-suicide attempt, the game had written a death note to her mother saying that “there was no hope left.” in the battle with her husband.
6. Family of Aaron Doty vs. Kenneth Felipe & Jonathan Rodriguez, Wrongful Death by Assault and Setting of Victim on Fire by the Accused ($700 million)
The WPTV reported on July 18, 2019, that a jury had awarded $700 million to a family whose son, Aaron Doty, had been beaten and set on fire while alive by his ‘friends’ in a party. The incident occurred in Highlands County in June 2012, and the two respondents were given life sentences for killing Doty in 2015. In one of the most gruesome killings, Felipe punched Doty, and with beatings from Rodriguez, Doty became unconscious. Several hours later, when he was still unconscious, they set him on fire. The incident had a lot of negative emotional effects on the deceased’s family, who said they did not even have enough courage to go and collect the money.
5. Estate of Connor Dzion vs. ADJ Business Services Inc. & Kahkashan Carrier of Canada, Wrongful Death by Negligent Driver Conduct ($1 billion)
News 4 JAX reported on August 24, 2021, that a Nassau County jury had given a $1 billion verdict against the defendants for allegedly negligent behavior by their drivers which led to the death of Connor Dzion on the Interstate 95. At the time of death, Connor was 18 years and a student at Creekside High School. The family lawyer, Curry Pajcic of the Pajcic & Pajcic law firm, told the jury that a driver for the first respondent was distracted by a cellphone.
At the time of causing the accident, he did not have a valid driver’s license, and he had exceeded the legal limit hours. The court heard how the deceased was slammed by another truck at a 70-mph speed as the driver tried to mitigate the traffic congestion created by the acts of the first respondent. The lawyer argued that the second driver never applied brakes even though there were parked cars that had blinking lights. The matter was concluded after five days.
4. Estate of and Victims of the Champlain Towers South Lawsuit, Wrongful Death Caused by Collapsing of a Building ($1.02 billion)
On June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South, located at Surfside, Miami, Florida, collapsed, leading to the death of 98 people. According to CBS News, this triggered a series of lawsuits that were later consolidated. On June 23, 2022, the Judge presiding over the case, Michael Hanzman, approved a $1.02 million settlement agreed upon by different parties after a year of litigation. Most of the money would go to the families of the deceased, with $100 million going to cater for legal fees, and $96 million was meant for the compensation of those who owned condos in the building. At the time of collapsing, the building was more than 40 years old, and after its collapse, media outlets reported that a Dubai-based developer would buy the space for $120 million.
3. Estate of Taylor Goven vs. Jordan Morsette, Causing Wrongful Death by Driving While Drunk ($1.127 billion)
Expert Institute reported that Jordan Morsette had a head-on collision with Shayna Monson on June 27, 2015, at the Mackenzie Drive, Bismarck Expressway. The accident led to the death of Monson’s two sons, Taylor Govern and Abby Rentschler. However, Monson managed to survive. Later examinations established that Morsette’s blood had 0.295% alcohol content, far beyond the legal limit of 0.08%. After a vigorous trial, the jury seated in Burleigh County, North Dakota, sided with the plaintiff in its November 1, 2019 ruling. Shayna Monson and the families of the other two deceased victims were awarded $295 million in punitive damages. Monson also secured compensatory damages worth $170 million, and each family of the two deceased boys got $36 million in compensation. The jury also set the interest of the payments at 6%.
2. Tyler Thomas vs. Joshua Keadle & Others, The Accused Burnt the Victim to Death ($2.64 billion)
Tyler Thomas was a student at Peru State College, Nebraska. December 3, 2010, was the last date Tyler was seen on the college campus towards her dormitory. Police were called into the matter and questioned Joshua Keadle, who admitted to having picked Tyler and drove her to a boat camp near the Missouri River. Further investigations revealed that Keadle had raped the young lady before allegedly leaving her alive when she threatened to report him. The Tyler family sued the College, Keadle, and the state of Nebraska. However, the college was excused from the lawsuit on the pretext that it was practically impossible to foretell that Keadle would engage in such an activity.
According to Verdict Search, the family was seeking compensation for the loss of companionship and the pain caused by the death of their daughter. The jury hearing the matter gave a verdict of $2.64 billion. The matter was heard under the guidance of Judge Danial Bryan, and it took only one day, and the trial deliberations only took 2 hours. Regardless of the short time taken to conclude the case, it remains one of the greatest wrongful death cases in the history of the U.S.
1. Family of Robbie Middleton vs. Don Wilburn Collins, Wrongful Death by Sustaining Burn Injuries ($150 billion)
In what appeared to be an attempt to topple awards against tobacco companies, the lawyer representing the family of the deceased managed to secure a $150 billion compensation in damages. Robbie’s family accused Don Wilburn Collins of setting the deceased on fire during his 8th birthday on June 28, 1998. According to TDCAA, the boy sustained 99.5 percent third-degree burns on his body. The family had to take him through more than 200 surgeries to control them.
Twelve years later, he died of skin cancer, which the accused’s lawyers capitalized on when calling for dismissing the case against their client. At the time of the ruling, the Robbie family said that it would not collect the money but called for the prosecution of Collins, whom the police had never prosecuted by then. Notably, Collins was a deviant sexual offender who was in prison for sexually offending another eight-year-old boy when the jury delivered the ruling.
From the above discussion, one can see how criminal law guides the success of civil litigation. Even where the police had not initiated criminal proceedings, and there were clear elements of criminal actions, juries did not hesitate to sit with the plaintiff. It is also astonishing how some of the shortest times that were taken by juries to hear and determine some of these cases. For example, it is still how amazing the Tyler Thomas Versus Joshua Keadle & Others, The Accused Burnt the Victim to Death ($2.64 billion) was concluded with a day. Loss of human life is undoubtedly the greatest loss a family can encounter, and institutions, especially automobiles, companies, and medical facilities, should take necessary steps to address any omissions or commissions which may lead to these events.