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5 Famous Wrongful Death Cases

The passing of a loved one is, unfortunately, something that is unavoidable. At some point in our lives, either through the simple passing of time or through an illness, such as COVID-19, someone we know or may be close to will die. It may even be we ourselves, who leave a hole in a family and circle of acquaintances in some instances.

But while death is inevitable, the cause of death varies a lot. Some death is the unavoidable consequence of long life and old age. Others, however, are the result of accidents that could have been easily preventable. In the cases of avoidable death, the law can step in. These deaths are not considered crimes, and thus there are no criminal charges for those responsible. However, in these cases, known as "wrongful death," the responsible people can still be made to pay if the court finds them accountable. Here are some of the more prominent examples of how people have gotten justice through wrongful death cases in court.

Ford Motor Company

In the 1970s, the Ford company manufactured an affordable car known as the Pinto. Unfortunately, there was a severe defect with the vehicle built right in at the design stage. The gas tank of the vehicle was placed in a vulnerable position at the rear of the car.
This created the potential for a gas tank breach in the event of a collision, especially from the rear. Tragically, Ford was aware of this issue but did nothing about it. They ran a cost-benefit analysis that decided it would be cheaper to pay off victims than repair the defect or issue a recall. However, once the death count rose, multiple wrongful death lawsuits eventually brought the cost higher than their cost-benefit analysis had predicted. They were found guilty in court.

Instinct Productions & The Death Of Aaliyah

Toward the end of 2001, rising music and film star Aaliyah lost her life along with several others when a private chartered plane she was in crashed shortly after taking from its runway. The plane was bound for Florida, carrying Aaliyah and several others as part of the filming for a new music video.

It was discovered that not only was the plane overloaded with equipment to reduce logistics costs, but the pilot was not qualified to operate that plane. Lawsuits were successfully carried out against Instinct Productions, who were responsible for organizing the fatal trip.

Murrieta Valley School District

In 2016, the Murrieta Valley School district held an end-of-year event for 100 students. Tragically, a 13-year-old boy drowned during the festivities. The boy's family later took the school district to court—and successfully settled out of court—when new evidence came to light, showing that it was more than an unforeseeable accident.

The undeniable proof was security surveillance footage that showed the boy slipping into the water, with lifeguards and other adults present in the area. The boy remained submerged for over two minutes while staff and other adults did nothing, only to be retrieved from the water when other students finally noticed.

Los Angeles County

In 2013, a 65-year-old attorney was riding his bicycle in a bike lane. Despite the safety precautions, he was hit by a vehicle that swerved into the bike lane. It collided directly into him, and he hit the vehicle's windshield and died of impact-related injuries shortly after.
The person responsible was a Los Angeles County deputy who was typing something on the vehicle computer at the time. Despite the apparent distracted driving and death-related incident, no charges were filed against the deputy. Los Angeles county did, however, settle out of court for over 11 million dollars.

OJ Simpson

Perhaps the most famous wrongful death of all, OJ Simpson was famously found not guilty in a criminal trial for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman. When the criminal trial failed, a civil trial ensued. Despite a jury finding OJ Simpson not guilty of murder, a jury for a lawsuit did find Simpson accountable for wrongful death.

OJ Simpson was required to pay over 33 million dollars to the murder victims' families and was eventually arrested and served nine years in a Nevada prison for armed robbery.

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