Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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At about 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, a hit-and-run driver struck a group of pedestrians on the Venice Beach boardwalk; 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni, of Italy, was killed and eleven others were injured. Authorities indicated that 38-year-old Nathan Louis Campbell entered Ocean Front Walk by maneuvering his blue sedan past five narrow concrete pylons meant to block cars from the boardwalk. According to witnesses, he then reached speeds of near 60 mph, intentionally hitting pedestrians. One woman sustained major trauma, and four other pedestrians suffered minor injuries; all were receiving treatment at UCLA Medical Center. Christian Gruppioni, the husband of the woman who was killed, and the other victims suffered minor injuries and were treated at area hospitals. Campbell initially fled the scene but later turned himself into police and was arrested on suspicion of murder.

“When a driver intentionally harms others, he may face criminal charges from the state and civil actions from the victims or their surviving family members,” explained California injury lawyer James Ballidis.

In California, the criminal justice system provides the state with a means of punishing individuals for violating its laws. Those who were injured or lost loved ones as a result of the individual’s actions often serve as witnesses for the prosecution. The civil justice system allows the victims to hold the individual liable for any injury or loss his or her actions caused and to seek compensatory damages. While the criminal justice system holds the defendant accountable for crimes against the state, the civil justice system holds the defendant accountable to the victims.

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At around 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, a limousine traveling westbound on the San Mateo Bridge caught on fire. There were ten occupants in the vehicle, five of whom escaped. Five women were killed. Emergency responders transported four women to area hospitals to receive treatment for smoke inhalation and burns. Authorities are investigating the fire; however, they do not suspect that it was an accident.

“Whether the death of a loved one can be attributed to the negligence or the intentional act of another, the family of the victim has recourse through the criminal and the civil justice systems,” explained California wrongful death lawyer James Ballidis. “In the latter instance, the state will punish the perpetrator for breaking its laws and the family will pursue a wrongful death claim in order to obtain compensation for their loss.”

California’s traffic-related fatalities increased 2.6 percent in 2011, from 2,720 in 2010 to 2,791. Despite the increase, traffic deaths were at one of the lowest levels since the federal government began recording such information in 1975. Nationwide, 32,367 people were killed in traffic-related incidents that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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A wrongful death case of alleged police force in West Covina, California recently resulted in a $1.5 million award for the family of the victim. After leaving a hospital while in the midst of alcohol detoxification treatment, 42-year-old David Mendoza was arrested for suspected burglary after attempting to break into a house to call his family. Complaining of illness, Mendoza was taken by police to a hospital, where they alleged a struggle ensued while he was restrained and awaiting treatment, during which police repeatedly punched and Tased him. Witnesses testified that Mendoza’s behavior did not merit the use of such force.

“While the use of force is necessary for police in certain instances, the facts of this case do not suggest that this was one of them,” explained James Ballidis, a personal injury attorney in Orange County, California.

Although the Los Angles County District Attorney determined that no excessive force had been used, a Los Angeles jury in a civil lawsuit filed by Mendoza’s family came to a different conclusion. They awarded $750,000 to each of Mendoza’s two sons. This verdict was appealed and upheld by the appellate court.

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At around midnight on Friday, June 8th, 48-year-old Arturo Cuellar was killed in an accident involving a semi at his place of work in Carlsbad. An employee in the shipping and receiving department of Kellog Avenue flower retailer FlorExpo, Cuellar opened the rolling door of a semi that had just arrived at the store to help unload a delivery. When he stepped to the edge of the dock, the truck suddenly backed up, the trailer’s rear doors hitting him in the head. He fell to the ground, knocking the back of his head on the pavement. Paramedics were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at about 12:40 a.m.

“After a fatal accident, the at-fault party may be held liable for the victim’s family’s loss,” explained California personal injury attorney James Ballidis. “In many cases, the family will file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a total of 4,690 fatal work injuries in 2010, the second lowest annual total since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992. Transportation and material moving occupations accounted for 1,160 of the fatalities that year.

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In February 2012, Joanna Ramos, an eleven-year-old girl in Long Beach, California, got into a fight with one of her classmates. The two girls apparently were fighting over a boy, and the fight was observed by seven other students. After the fight ended, Joanna Ramos vomited and complained to her mother of a headache. Although she had no visible wounds, her mother rushed her to the hospital, where she underwent surgery before going into intensive care. Unfortunately, she was pronounced dead around 9:00 p.m. that evening.

“The death of Joanna Ramos was tragic,” explained a California personal injury lawyer. “Fortunately, the law provides legal recourse for victims in such cases, and a number of potential legal issues could arise as a result of this child’s death.”

One likely possibility is that the other girl involved in the fight will face criminal homicide charges for her wrongful actions that led to Ramos’ death. The death has been ruled a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head, and Ramos died of bleeding in the brain and a blood clot in the brain after indicating to her mother that she had been punched in the head during the course of the fight.

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On the morning of March 23rd, 34-year-old truck driver Vays Dzhanayez, of North Carolina, was killed while unloading a delivery to Harrington Plastic in Chino. The accident occurred when a forklift driver picked up the 460 pound pile of 20-foot-long fiberglass beams as Dzhanayez was removing the straps from them, causing the load to shift and strike him in the head before falling on his chest. Paramedics transported him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 9:00 a.m. Authorities are investigating the accident.

“When someone is killed in an accident caused by the negligence of another, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim in order to receive compensation for their loss,” explained California personal injury attorney James Ballidis.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,547 people lost their lives while on the job in 2010, a slight decrease from the previous year, when 4,551 fatalities were recorded. Approximately 13 percent of work-related fatalities in 2010 occurred in the transportation and warehousing sector.

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In California and throughout the United States, certain drugs are classified as controlled substances. Both federal and state drug control laws divide different medications into different categories of controlled substances or “drug schedules” as they are called, explains a personal injury attorney. Schedule I drugs include those, such as heroin, that have no legitimate medical use and that are very dangerous. Schedule II drugs are drugs that are dangerous and addictive but have some medical use. Schedule III drugs have a medical use but are less likely to cause significant harm or inspire addiction. Finally, Schedule IV drugs are restricted and present potential dangers but pose less risk than drugs classified as schedule I, II or III.

In order to obtain a controlled substance considered a schedule II, III or IV substance, a patient must have a valid medical prescription from a doctor. Unfortunately, some doctors are less than ethical and they make the choice to prescribe prescription medications without a legitimate medical reason to do so. Some of these doctors may not even examine the patient at all. They often work in low-rent districts or strip malls and hand out prescriptions in exchange for collecting fees. They are, essentially, glorified drug dealers and they are breaking both state and federal laws with their prescription drug abuse.

The problem of prescription drug abuse is a major one, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimating that as many as 20 percent of people in the United States make use of prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Commonly abused drugs include antipsychotic drugs (Xanax, etc.), ADD or ADHD drugs (Ritalin) and pain killers (Oxycodone, etc.).

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Shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6th, 38-year-old Jeanette Ogara was killed in a canon explosion in Potrero. The accident occurred while Ogara’s common-law husband, 39-year-old Richard Fox, was experimenting with a homemade cannon. After being loaded with fireworks, the device exploded. Ogara was hit with shrapnel while inside the couple’s mobile home with their 4-year-old daughter and three other adults, none of whom were injured. Fox, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time, was arrested on charges relating to the negligent discharge of explosives causing injury.

“When a person’s actions fail to meet the standards of behavior established under the law to protect society from the unreasonable risk of injury, that person may be found negligent and held accountable for the consequences of his or her actions,” explained California personal injury lawyer James Ballidis.

Under California Penal Code Section 18710 (a), any person or entity possessing any destructive device, other than fixed ammunition of a caliber greater than .60, in the state is guilty of a public offense. According to Section 18755 (a), any person who willfully and maliciously explodes or ignites any destructive device or any explosive that causes death to another is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.

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How much do you feel your child is worth? In the wrongful death lawsuit of junior lifeguard student, Allyssa Squirrell, the attorneys for the city of Huntington Beach insurance company have filed a petition to cap the city’s liability at $26,100.

Navigator’s insurance claims that the city’s liability is limited to the value of the boat due to admiralty law. In this case, the boat was worth $26,100. The Squirrell family attorney countered back with warnings to all junior lifeguard families-did you know that this program values your child the same as it does a boat?

This case will continue to be a battle between the city of Huntington Beach, insurance companies and attorneys. Having a wrongful death claim is never easy because it forces people to put a value on a person’s life.

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