Wrongful Death and Minors


A wrongful death lawsuit allows the children of a deceased individual to pursue claims against any parties whose negligence caused their parent’s death. Many wrongful death claims can be settled without the need for extended litigation. When such settlements involve minor children of a deceased victim, special care must be taken to protect their interests.

Judge Approves $113,500 Settlement Against Ambulance Company

Here is a recent example. In 2015 police officers in Kern County, California, arrested a man–the decedent in this case–following a traffic stop. The officers suspected the decedent had been abusing drugs. They called an ambulance, but after an employee of the ambulance service, the officers proceeded to take the decedent directly to the county jail. The jail then declined to admit the man until he was medically cleared.

The officers then proceeded to take the decedent to the hospital. By this point, according to court records, he was “he was incoherent and possibly unconscious.” Approximately two hours after the officers took the decedent to the hospital and six hours following his arrest, he died.

The decedent was survived by a number of parties, including two minor children who are ages six and eight. The decedent’s estate, acting on their behalf, sued Kern County as well as the ambulance company and the employee who initially examined the decedent on the night of his death. In October 2017, the children’s guardian ad litem–the person appointed to represent their interests in the wrongful death litigation–agreed to a settlement with the ambulance company and its employee.

In cases such as these, the judge has an independent legal duty to review the proposed settlement. As the judge in this case explained, his role is to determine “whether the settlement serves the best interests of the minor.” The mere fact a parent or guardian ad litem has agreed to a proposed settlement does not necessarily mean it is in the minor’s best interests.

In this case, the judge found the settlement was “fair and reasonable.” Specifically, the ambulance defendants agreed to pay a total of $132,500 to resolve all outstanding claims against them. The two minor children will each receive an annuity funded with approximately $12,000 apiece from the settlement. The remainder of the settlement will go to the other adult claimants and the payment of attorney’s fees and court costs.

In approving the settlement, the judge said the total amount obtained was “comparable” to similar California cases, particularly those involving the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). MICRA is a state law limiting the amount of non-economic damages victims can obtain in cases arising from acts of medical malpractice or negligence. Here, the judge said the most the plaintiffs could obtain in a wrongful death lawsuit was $250,000. By settling now for $132,500, they avoided the uncertainty of a jury verdict, which could leave them with nothing, while avoiding taking on additional litigation costs.

A Pasadena Personal Injury Lawyer can Help You

It is important to emphasize that not every wrongful death case can–or should–be settled. Especially in cases where there are no applicable caps on damages, a quick settlement could mean leaving thousands, even millions, of dollars on the table. This is why you should never pursue a wrongful death case without first retaining an experienced Pasadena personal injury lawyer. Call the offices of Strassburg, Gilmore, & Wei, Attorneys at Law, today at (626) 683-9933 if you are need of legal advice regarding a wrongful death or catastrophic personal injury claim and would like to schedule a consultation.

Leave a Reply