Families in South Carolina that feel a loved one’s death was the fault of someone’s negligent or willful actions sometimes decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Because there is a lower burden of proof in a civil lawsuit than in a criminal trial, there are cases where a person will be found innocent in criminal court but ruled at fault in the civil proceeding.
Several high-profile deaths have led to different rulings by the criminal jury and the civil jury. In 1995, former professional football player O.J. Simpson was found innocent of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. However, when the families of Brown Simpson and Goldman brought a wrongful death civil action, the jury awarded them $33.5 million in damages.
Ten years after the O.J. Simpson case, actor Robert Blake was acquitted of a charge for the murder of his wife. Although prosecutors though that Blake was involved in the woman’s death, the murder was not officially solved. Despite the acquittal in criminal court, Blake was ordered by a civil jury to pay his wife’s four children $30 million in damages.
Civil wrongful death lawsuits may allow families to seek justice for their loved one’s death if they feel that the criminal justice system has failed them. However, proving liability in a wrongful death lawsuit is not always easy, especially when a death involves a shooter that was a law enforcement officer. A family that believes they have a case for filing a civil action for the loss of a loved one may want to seek help from an attorney.