Top 5 Wrongful Death Settlements or Verdicts

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Top 5 Wrongful Death Settlements or Verdicts

Top 5 Wrongful Death Settlements or Verdicts

May 8, 2023

Wrongful Death is a legal term that, although used frequently in litigation and even news reports, is not always understood. Wrongful Death is a part of personal injury law. It can encompass a variety of claims, including medical malpractice, assault and battery, or serious car accidents. If you hear the phrase “wrongful death,” it’s most likely referring to a civil suit brought by a family member or eligible survivor of a person who died (the decedent) due someone’s negligence or misconduct.

Top 5 Wrongful Death Settlements or Verdicts

In a wrongful-death lawsuit, the goal is to recover damages in three different categories: economic, punitive, and non-economic. Even if criminal charges have been filed and lost, wrongful death lawsuits may still be pursued.
Some of the most famous wrongful death cases include:

  • State of California v. O.J. Simpson: In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson (the ex-wife O.J. Simpson) and Ron Goldman were both found dead from stab wounds outside Brown’s Los Angeles home. Simpson was acquitted in the criminal case despite strong evidence tying him to the murders. A subsequent wrongful death civil claim was filed. Nicole Brown’s children were awarded $12.6 million through her estate, and the victims’ families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages in the wrongful death decision.
  • Michael Jackson: In 2009, Michael Jackson died of an overdose from the anesthetic Propofol. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s doctor, was administering the drug and was convicted in 2011 of involuntary homicide. The Jackson family dropped their wrongful death case against Dr. Murray but pursued a claim against AEG, the late musician’s concert promoter. The Jackson family ultimately lost that case in 2013, but it is known as one of the most famous wrongful death actions.
  • Philando Castile: Castille, a black man, was killed in 2016 by a Minnesota police officer after a routine traffic stop. In 2017, the officer was cleared of second-degree murder, sparking protests and calls for reform. A wrongful death civil action was brought shortly thereafter. In the final settlement, Castile’s family was awarded $3 million in wrongful death damages.
  • George Floyd: In a shocking act of brutality, police officer Derek Chauvin knelt down on George Floyd’s neck during an arrest in 2020, leading to his death. Floyd’s wrongful death case caught the attention of the entire world. The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay a $27 million wrongful death settlement to Floyd’s family. Additionally, Chauvin was criminally convicted for second-degree, third-degree, and second degree manslaughter.
  • Kobe Bryant: In 2021, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s widow – and families of additional victims in the tragic 2020 helicopter crash were awarded a confidential wrongful death settlement after filing a suit against the company which employed the pilot. In 2023, a $28,850,000 wrongful death settlement was awarded to Vanessa Bryant after filing a separate claim against Los Angeles County for police personnel sharing graphic images of the crash with one another.

Top 5 Wrongful Death Damages Awards

Wrongful death lawsuits can lead to substantial settlements or verdicts when a defendant’s actions are found to be responsible for the death of an individual. Here are the Top 5 Wrongful Death Cases that have resulted in major settlements or verdicts:

  1. Johnson & Johnson: In 2018, a Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who sued the corporation alleging that the use of their talcum powder products led to the development of ovarian cancer. Six of the women named in the wrongful death suit had died from the disease.
  2. Boeing: In 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of passengers who died in two crashes while traveling on the company’s 737 Max planes. The crashes, which occurred in 2018 and 2019, resulted in the deaths of 346 people and the controversy surrounding these events was featured in a Netflix documentary.
  3. Philip Morris: In 2002, a Los Angeles jury awarded $28 billion in damages to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer. The verdict was later reduced to $28 million, but the initial decision was important because it represented the first time a tobacco company was held liable for the death of a patron/smoker.
  4. ExxonMobil: In 2009, ExxonMobil agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of workers who died in a 1998 explosion at the company’s refinery in Beaumont, Texas. Fifteen workers perished in the blast, and dozens more were injured.
  5. DuPont: In 2017, DuPont agreed to pay $671 million to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by residents of Parkersburg, West Virginia, who claimed that the company’s dumping of a toxic chemical into the local water supply caused them to develop cancer and other diseases. The settlement included compensation for wrongful death claims. The litigation process was featured in a 2019 film starring Mark Ruffalo entitled “Dark Waters.”

The final amount of damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits can vary considerably depending on the circumstances of each case. But certain family members may bring claims and be eligible to recover financial compensation when negligence results in someone’s death.

Who is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?

Under California law, the following family members or personal representatives are able bring a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Spouses
  • Domestic partners
  • Children
  • Grandchildren (if the decedent’s children are also deceased)
  • Other minor children (including stepchildren) provided they were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support
  • Any additional individuals who would be entitled to the decedent’s property under California’s laws on intestate succession (assets that would have passed through the decedent’s will are typically affected under such laws, usually pertaining to assets owned alone by the decedent, solely in their name)

The specific types of damages each eligible recipient recovers can vary on a case-by-case basis.

What Types of Damages Can be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In California, economic damages for wrongful death can include without limitation:

  • The financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetime
  • The loss of gifts or benefits the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided
  • Medical bills and other expenses incurred
  • Value of lost benefits, such as the decedent’s pension or health insurance

Non-economic damages for wrongful death can include without limitation:

  • Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship and support
  • Protection
  • Affection
  • Moral support
  • Training and guidance
  • Sexual relations

Most California wrongful death lawsuits do not typically include punitive damages, as state law dictates that they only be awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing in an effort to punish the wrongdoer.

In rare cases, punitive damages can be claimed through what is known under state law as a “survival action.” A survival cause of action only applies in wrongful death cases where the decedent did not immediately die from his or her injuries. In such instances, even if the decedent lived only a short period of time between the accident and eventual death, a survival cause of action may be appropriate.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Contact a California Wrongful Death Attorney for a Free Consultation

If your loved one died as a result of negligence or harm, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. Contact the experienced attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free consultation and further information on filing your claim. Our Wrongful Death Division lawyers have a 98% winning record and have successfully recovered more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts for clients.

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