Earlier this year, a twin-engine Cessna private aircraft unexpectedly jutted off the runway, collided with a hangar and immediately engulfed in flames, killing all four passengers on board. The surviving sons of decedent Kyla DuPont, a passenger on the ill-fated aircraft, recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the estate of the pilot of the plane, citing negligent handling and maintenance of the aircraft. Specifically, the complaint alleges the pilot, 63-year old Mark Benjamin, failed to maintain proper control over the plane, did not perform necessary checks and protocol to ensure a safe flight, “acted unreasonably in landing the plain” and failed to properly repair the aircraft in accordance with aircraft regulation.
In any wrongful death action, a lengthy discovery process will ensue to allow both parties the opportunity to review and uncover evidence material to the case. For instance, documents stemming from an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be very helpful in determining possible causes for the accident – including whether negligence was likely a factor. According to preliminary NTSB reports, the plane’s tires were fully inflated and showed no signs of wear. Likewise, the air traffic control tower did not report signs of distress from the pilot immediately preceding the incident.
General Wrongful Death Laws in California
Wrongful death actions, such as the one described above, are unique in that the case may essentially involve one decedent suing another over an incident leading to the death of both. While many civil causes of action, such as defamation, die with the plaintiff, negligence is actionable from beyond the grave, allowing surviving family members to make a claim against the responsible defendant or his estate.
Not every family member is eligible to commence a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the current California Code, wrongful death actions may be filed by the decedent’s spouse, domestic partner or children. As well, certain circumstances permit a wrongful death action by a decedent’s adult or minor dependents.
In the case described above, the lawsuit was filed by the three sons of one of the victims. Others killed in the accident include the pilot, his son and his son’s girlfriend, both 28.
Considering Filing a Wrongful Death Action?
The decision to speak to a wrongful death lawyer is not easy. It often involves reliving the tragic events leading to the unexpected death of a loved one, and requires uncomfortable adversarial legal proceedings against the alleged responsible party. However, wrongful death lawsuits are extremely important in equitably balancing responsibility against those whose negligent actions caused not only the death of another, but an unwelcome life change for those family members left behind.
For more information about the wrongful death process, contact Nelson C. Barry today.