Oct 27, 2020
Most of us remember the day we heard about the helicopter crash leading to the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Kobe Bryant was a worldwide basketball legend, cultural icon, and inspiration to many (particularly here in Los Angeles). Throughout his life Bryant earned myriad accomplishments and accolades both on and off the basketball court, and his devoted following spanned the globe. When the circumstances surrounding an untimely death involve alleged negligence, such a tragedy can be difficult to comprehend, let alone accept.
In an effort to pursue justice for her family, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company and pilot earlier this year. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by the family of an individual whose death resulted from negligence or misconduct. Wrongful death lawsuits are intended to heal and compensate families for the pain and suffering they endure from such an unfortunate tragedy.
Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit in February against the estate of the helicopter pilot (Ara Zobayan, who also perished in the crash), as well as the helicopter company (Island Express Helicopters), and the parent company (Island Express Holding Corporation). The families of the six other crash victims have also filed wrongful death suits.
Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that the pilot was negligent for flying in such poor weather conditions, and that the pilot “had a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances.” The claim also contends that the pilot was negligent in not assessing the weather data before departure. Furthermore, Mrs. Bryant’s attorneys allege that the pilot did not stop the flight and land the helicopter despite the hazardous conditions. The complaint further states that the helicopter company authorized the flight “with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions.” The amount of compensation sought has not been disclosed.
Facts Supporting Mrs. Bryant’s Case
The helicopter crashed into a hillside just outside the city of Calabasas, California. When the helicopter took off, the fog was so dense that county police had grounded their own helicopters. Despite these conditions, the pilot requested special clearance from air traffic controllers to permit him to takeoff. After being granted this clearance, the pilot asked for something called “flight following,” which is radar assistance and tracking used to help helicopters avoid collisions in poor weather. Traffic controllers communicated that this was not possible since the helicopter was flying too low, and therefore unable to be picked up by radar. The crash reportedly occurred when the pilot ascended to avoid a cloud layer, and then quickly descended without realizing the hillside’s proximity. All nine passengers aboard the helicopter died.
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit alleging that a victim’s life was wrongfully taken due to the negligent, deliberate, or willful action of another. The victim’s (decedent’s) heirs or other beneficiaries file the lawsuit against any and all parties they believe to be responsible for the death. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs can receive monetary compensation for their loss and related harm.
Common accidents and incidents that can lead to wrongful death lawsuits include aviation accidents, car accidents, pedestrian accidents, product defects or malfunctions, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, etc.
Any of the decedent’s surviving family members, beneficiaries, or legal representatives can sue if harm was suffered due to the wrongful death. A potential plaintiff in a wrongful death case is called a “real party in interest” and is defined as a “person or entity whose rights are involved and stands to gain from a lawsuit or petition.” Some of the most common plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits are family members and financial dependents.
Family member plaintiffs can be immediate relatives (such as a spouse, child, or sibling of the decedent) or distant relatives (such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle). The parents of an unmarried child decedent also have the legal right to sue for wrongful death.
Life and domestic partners, as well as financial dependents, also have the legal right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party/parties. Additionally, in cases where a person believes they were legally married to the deceased victim at the time of the death, then that pseudo-spouse can also bring a wrongful death suit.
Types of Defendants in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Individuals, companies, employers/employees, government agencies (if sovereign immunity has been waived), etc. can all be sued for wrongful death.
Section 377.60 outlines specifically who can bring a wrongful death claim:
And, according to Section 335.1, a plaintiff must bring the wrongful death action within two years of the victim’s death. This point is very important because after the two years have passed, a lawsuit can no longer be brought. Potential plaintiffs waive their right to sue after two years. It is important to take action sooner rather than later.
In California, the legislature states that a court may award plaintiffs in a wrongful death action damages deemed “just” given all circumstances of the case. Although what is “just” is determined on a case-by-case basis, a plaintiff can ask for damages in many forms. Various types of damages, both economic and non-economic, include the following:
However, punitive damages are NOT available in a wrongful death lawsuit in California.
The first step in bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is finding a qualified and experienced attorney who will fight to help you and your family recover the damages you deserve.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) has extensive experience in successfully handling countless wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits. Evidence of our success can be found in the many positive testimonials from our satisfied clients.
For over 20 years, DLG attorneys have been winning all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. DLG stands out above all other firms for a variety of reasons.
The DLG advantage for plaintiffs bringing wrongful death actions is actually quite straightforward: we combine the personalized care, support, and discretion that is typical of a small law firm with the resources and success rates typically found at much larger law firms. We are the best of both worlds. We consider every new client a member of our extended family, and we provide only the best experts and resources available to ensure the most successful outcome in a wrongful death claim.
DLG’s founder and president, Samuel Dordulian, is a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County who has successfully handled countless personal injury and wrongful death cases while recovering millions of dollars for his clients. Dordulian has experience on both sides of the law when it comes to wrongful death actions – previously prosecuting criminals responsible for the deaths of victims, and now helping victims’ family members get the justice they deserve through the civil legal system.
Additionally, DLG’s chief investigator, Moses Castillo, is a former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department whose career included nearly 30 years of decorated service. At DLG, Castillo uses his extensive experience as a former detective to help our clients obtain justice following the wrongful death of a loved one.
Samuel Dordulian and Moses Castillo have unparalleled wrongful death and personal injury experience that cannot be found at other law firms. DLG’s unique resources lead to successful results for our valued clients. All DLG clients can be confident that they have the best chance of winning their case and being awarded maximum compensation.
Here at DLG, we care about our clients. When you choose Dordulian Law Group to handle your wrongful death case, you never have to worry about being just another number, or that your case will not be given the dedication it deserves. Each DLG client receives personalized support and attention from our team of experienced wrongful death attorneys. Furthermore, we WIN for our clients. DLG attorneys have an overall 98% success rate in trials, and have recovered over $100 million in damages awards throughout the years.
With DLG, you have access to every available benefit and advantage-vast experience, proven success and results, the resources to ensure your case succeeds, and the personalized service, care, and attention you deserve.
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