Wrongful death lawsuits are often associated with simple mistakes that lead to fatal consequences. However, sometimes the victim’s death is anything but an accident. Take, for instance, a recent tragic Ohio case in which the families of three students shot to death in a high school cafeteria settled their claims against the family of the young man who killed their children.
The defendant, who was an Ohio high school student at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty in a criminal case and was sentenced to life without parole. In a separate civil case, the families of the slain students sought to recover compensation from the defendant, as well as his relatives. The plaintiffs recently settled the suit in the amount of approximately $2.7 million, divided evenly among the three families.
Although the defendant was directly responsible for killing the three victims, the plaintiffs are also pursuing claims against the alternative school the defendant attended and the local school district. The plaintiffs allege that the district and the alternative school demonstrated negligence in security and in failing to warn others of the defendant’s dangerous instability, thus rendering those parties liable for the school shooting.
The circumstances that led to this lawsuit, while tragic, highlight an important point: simply because one party is obviously directly liable for a wrongful death does not mean that liability ends there. Here, the plaintiffs’ choice to settle with family of the person responsible for murdering their children does not necessarily extinguish their claims against other potentially liable entities.
It can be difficult in a wrongful death case to establish where the blame may lie; a party’s connection to a wrongdoer or a wrongful act is not always obvious.