Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Police
If you run a search for “wrongful death lawsuit”, the majority of articles you’ll find are those filed against local police departments accused of excessive force. Today, these lawsuits are much easier to win than they were in years past, but plaintiffs still face an uphill battle. Sovereign immunity prevents plaintiffs from recovering judgments in excess of damage caps. While in some cases, a plaintiff can recover more, it’s largely only after they’ve been able to leverage public outrage over their death that the government feels compelled to waive the caps.
So, for most families, successful lawsuits only pay out $200,000 or so.
Most recently, a lawsuit has been filed against Texas authorities after they shot and killed the valedictorian of his high school before he had a chance to accept a full scholarship to UT Austin. A vigil was held for the young man and his parents announced a wrongful death lawsuit against the department responsible for his death.
The decedent lost control of his car and ended up crashing on someone’s lawn. An altercation broke out between the driver and the residents and the driver was restrained. When police arrived, the residents told police the man was trespassing. The boy was shot twice by police and died at the hospital.
The family says that police are not being forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death. By now, we would have had body camera footage if the police were exonerated. In other words, the parents are being stonewalled for answers and have filed the wrongful death lawsuit as a means of forcing the officers to explain themselves. If they can’t, then the plaintiffs would win. Whether or not this would result in charges against the officers or administrative repercussions is unknown.
The matter is currently being investigated by the Texas Rangers. The parents could also file suit against the residents for attempting to restrain the driver and escalating the situation, then lying to police about what occurred.
What will happen?
The parents through their attorney will be asking for information, including body camera footage, of what transpired. They will not go away until they have the footage or have exhausted all legal efforts to acquire it. Ultimately, individual department policy can impact how easy it is to get access to materials like that. It seems unlikely that the department will satisfy requests for that information without a lengthy fight. However, we are still waiting for the results of the Rangers’ investigation. So, ultimately, they could find that the plaintiff’s concerns are warranted. It would be rare.
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