Rittenhouse Must Face Civil Suit Related To Wrongful Death
While Jacob Rittenhouse has been cleared of murder charges, he still has quite a few legal problems and a stain on his name that will follow him for the rest of his life. Today, he is being sued by the Huber estate, one of the two men killed by Rittenhouse. Huber had entered the fray after Rittenhouse was attacked by another man. Huber, believing Rittenhouse was shooting protestors, struck Rittenhouse in the head with a skateboard. Rittenhouse shot and killed Huber in the exchange.
Ultimately, questions of criminal liability fall by the wayside when you’re filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The standard of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is lower than a criminal case. The plaintiffs need only establish that Rittenhouse acted negligently to establish damages. Rittenhouse will counter that the death was the fault of the individual who was attempting to strike him with a skateboard.
Ultimately, U.S. juries do believe in self-defense. But, in a negligence situation, the plaintiffs can allege that a 17-year-old old with a weapon presents an obvious danger to the public. In other words, simply by being there with a gun, Rittenhouse created the scenario necessary to end someone’s life. In that case, it wouldn’t matter if Rittenhouse was attacked or not, he’s still responsible for placing himself in a position where he would be using lethal force.
Analyzing the defense
The defense will simply claim that the killing was justified and Rittenhouse had a right to be there at the time. However, having a right to be there doesn’t absolve you of civil responsibility. You have a right to drive a vehicle and you are still responsible if you cause an accident. Hence, the best defense for Rittenhouse will be to blame the victim.
While civil liability is rare in cases of genuine self-defense, there is a presumption, usually, that the plaintiff did not place themselves in danger. In this case, Huber attacked a man with a gun who had previously shot another man.
Comparative and contributory negligence
A jury will be asked to determine the relative liability of the victim and the shooter. Since the suit was filed in Wisconsin, it will follow the rules of contributory negligence. That means if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% liability, they will not be entitled to recover any damages. In Florida, they would be able to recover a percentage of their damages.
A finding of “they both contributed equally” will allow the plaintiff to recover 50% of the jury award from the wrongful death. If this occurs, then Rittenhouse would have the debt attached to his estate but will likely be able to discharge it in bankruptcy.
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