Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

A recent lawsuit filed in federal court in California claims officials should have prevented the death of  California inmate Hugo Pinell, who was killed just two weeks after being released into the general prison population last August. Pinell was revered by civil rights activists for his role in California’s prisoner rights movement of the 1960s.Born in Nicaragua, Pinell was convicted of rape at age 19 and sentenced to life in prison in 1965. Pinell had been in solitary confinement since a violent escape attempt from San Quentin in 1971, which left six dead, including three prison guards and Black Panther activist and inmate George Jackson. Pinell was deemed one of the “San Quentin Six” for slitting the throats of several guards during the botched attempt. After what was at the time the longest trial in California history, Pinell was given a third life sentence for his involvement in the incident.

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The widow and children of a construction worker killed at a wastewater treatment facility in Southern California were recently awarded $16.3 million in their case against the construction company.In August 2011, Edgar Alejandro Gonzalez was working at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a wastewater plant in Playa del Rey that handles Los Angeles’ water supply. Edgar was helping to erect a concrete wall panel when it collapsed, causing him to fall 30 feet. Part of the wall then fell on him, resulting in severe head trauma that ultimately caused his death. His family filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Atlas Construction Supply, Inc.

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The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants following a skateboarding death, based on the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.Brett Bertsch died while using a skateboard in Mammoth Lakes, a resort community. His brother and he were traveling downhill at a fast speed and without helmets when the front wheels of Brett’s skateboard hit a gap between the paved road and a cement collar surrounding a manhole cover. As a result, Brett was thrown off the board. He suffered brain trauma and unfortunately eventually passed away from his injuries.

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The mother and son of deceased California resident Angela Slack, who died at the hospital less than a week after being arrested, are suing Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles. The police department is calling the incident an “in-custody suicide attempt.”Virginia Wheeler and Jonathan Goetz filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court this month on behalf of Slack, who was 40 years old at the time of her death. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages stemming from allegations of wrongful death, negligence, failure to provide medical care in police custody, deprivation of life without due process, and interference with the parent-child relationship.  A spokesperson from the City Attorney’s Office failed to provide comment.

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The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District recently held that in order to avail itself of the statutory immunity granted to public entities from a death or injury resulting from police pursuits of suspected criminals, the entity must develop, adopt, promulgate, and provide regular and periodic training policies. Decedent Mike Wayne Morgan suffered fatal injuries when defendant Thomas Durnin crashed head-on into Morgan’s vehicle as Durnin was fleeing from Beaumont Police Officer Brian Stehli during a 12-minute car chase. The decedent’s widow and daughter filed suit, alleging wrongful death against defendants the City of Beaumont and the Beaumont Police Department (BPD).

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The California Court of Appeal for the Second District recently held in an asbestos-related cancer case that the trial court properly admitted testimony that the decedent’s exposure to asbestos in brake linings was a substantial factor in contributing to his developing mesothelioma. It further held that the manufacturer was not entitled to a supplemental instruction regarding factors to determine whether a plaintiff’s exposure to a particular asbestos-containing product should be deemed a substantial factor in causing the cancer.

In Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., the California Supreme Court addressed the plaintiff’s burden in an asbestos-related cancer case to prove that the defendant’s product was a legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The California high court held that the plaintiff may prove causation by demonstrating that his exposure to defendant’s asbestos-containing product was a substantial factor in contributing to the aggregate dose of asbestos the plaintiff ingested and hence to the risk of developing asbestos-related cancer. To meet this burden, plaintiffs tend to present testimony from medical experts adopting the theory that exposure to even low doses of asbestos contributes to the development of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer.

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On the morning of Saturday, November 8, 2014, a Los Angeles Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) inmate named Unique Moore complained that she couldn’t breathe. She subsequently suffered a fatal asthma attack. Moores’ parents Elaine Bridges and Jimmie Lee Moore filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and various CRDF officials for negligence and wrongful death.The 37-year-old Moore had a history of diabetes, asthma, and mental illness. Moore was arrested three weeks before her death for a probation violation. When she was admitted to the Lynwood facility, she told officials that she had severe asthma and that her asthma attacks could be fatal without adequate aid. While incarcerated, Moore was prescribed a number of medications for her mental illness, including Seroquel, which the FDA found in 2011 posed dangers of sudden cardiac death.

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Cindy K. Hung was found dead at her workplace in October 2010. While the coroner ruled her death a suicide, Cindy’s parents were convinced that their daughter was murdered as part of an ongoing conspiracy by her coworkers. Her parents attempted to pursue claims against various of Cindy’s coworkers. The trial court sustained demurrers (objections) to plaintiffs’ amended complaints without leave to amend as to nearly all individual defendants, which the appeals court previously affirmed. At the end of last month, the California Court of Appeal for the First District affirmed the final demurrers sustained by the trial court as to the remaining five defendants without leave to amend.

Cindy’s body was found on the rooftop of her former office at Tribal Technologies. Believing that various employees murdered Cindy and covered up the crime, plaintiffs filed five amended complaints, alleging assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent supervision and retention, and wrongful death. After a hearing in January 2015, the trial court sustained defendants’ final demurrer to the plaintiffs’ fifth amended complaint. Plaintiffs appealed.

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