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Who May Be Held Liable When a School Fight Turns Deadly?


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.

Another possibility is that civil liability may arise. The civil justice system enables a private party to sue another private party who caused loss or harm. When such lawsuits occur, they are commonly known as personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. Personal injury lawsuits are brought by injured parties, while wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the family members of deceased victims.

Both personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are predicated on the premise that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty and breached that legal duty. For instance, people owe each other a legal duty not to negligently cause harm, and people owe each other a legal duty not to intentionally cause harm through assault or physical fighting.

In the Ramos case, the person most clearly liable for the harm that occurred is the other student who was involved in the fight. Because she is a minor, however, she likely has no assets to pay wrongful death damages. As such, the family members of Ramos who wish to bring a wrongful death lawsuit would likely pursue other possible defendants, including the school district and the parents of the other student involved in the fight.

Hopefully, the Ramos family will find some measure of justice through the California court system to help compensate for their loss.

Additional information on this and other subjects, including books and articles on the process of pursuing a personal injury or a wrongful death claim, is available to the public free of charge.

To request one of these free resources, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596.

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