Even though a grand jury has decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, that does not mean that Wilson’s time in court is over. It’s still possible that there will be federal charges, and then there’s the chance of a civil suit brought by Brown’s family. The lawyer for the Brown family recently announced that they would pursue “every legal avenue” available to them.
One thing this likely means is a wrongful death suit. Missouri’s law on wrongful death says the following:
537.080. 1. Whenever the death of a person results from any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction, or circumstance which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled such person to recover damages in respect thereof, the person or party who, or the corporation which, would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable in an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, which damages may be sued for:
(1) By the spouse or children or the surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive;
(2) If there be no persons in class (1) entitled to bring the action, then by the brother or sister of the deceased, or their descendants, who can establish his or her right to those damages set out in section 537.090 because of the death;
(3) If there be no persons in class (1) or (2) entitled to bring the action, then by a plaintiff ad litem. Such plaintiff ad litem shall be appointed by the court having jurisdiction over the action for damages provided in this section upon application of some person entitled to share in the proceeds of such action. Such plaintiff ad litem shall be some suitable person competent to prosecute such action and whose appointment is requested on behalf of those persons entitled to share in the proceeds of such action. Such court may, in its discretion, require that such plaintiff ad litem give bond for the faithful performance of his duties.
In short, this means a wrongful death claim can be brought against a person whose negligent or intentional actions caused the death of another person.
And to win a wrongful death suit, the Brown family has a much lighter burden than there would have been in a criminal case. In general, crimes must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil wrongful death suit, though, the standard of proof is a preponderance of evidence, which basically just means that it is more likely than not that a certain thing happened. In a wrongful death suit against Darren Wilson, it would have to be shown that it is more likely than not that Wilson’s actions were responsible for Michael Brown’s death.
Many watched as Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced that there would be no indictment for Darren Wilson. We also saw the outraged reactions from protestors in and around Ferguson, Missouri. Then came Wilson’s resignation from the Ferguson Police Department. What’s next in this story has yet to be determined, but it would not be a shock to hear that the Brown family is moving forward with a wrongful death suit. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Hear mine on the latest Legal Lis podcast: foxrad.io/1BdNfpQ