Victim’s Family Has Options After Conviction in Man’s Death

Wrongful Death Attorney - Erik M. Bergmanis

A tragic story that started with a bar fight between romantic rivals has ended in a first-degree manslaughter conviction for a Minnesota man. In a January 16, 2020 article, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune provided some details on what led to the fatal altercation between the two men. According to witness testimony, the aggressor approached the victim and tossed a beer bottle at him. Moments later, the assailant dragged the decedent out of the tavern, where a fight ensued. The victim suffered brain hemorrhage, fractures to the face and skull, and a detached retina. He died two days after the incident.

The victim’s family has certainly gained some closure through the culmination of the criminal justice process. However, there are other consequences that result from his passing. Fortunately, survivors have legal options in civil court to recover monetary damages through a wrongful death action. This type of lawsuit compensates family members for the losses they sustain from after their loved one’s death.

Erik M. Bergmanis, personal injury and wrongful death attorney at Novitzke Gust Sempfe Whitley & Bergmanis in Minneapolis, explained how these cases work. “Essentially, a wrongful death claim is like a personal injury matter, except that the victim died instead of just being hurt. The statute allows the surviving spouse, children, or other relatives to request that the court appoint a trustee to file the case. These people stand in the shoes of the deceased individual.”

Because wrongful death cases are grounded in personal injury legal concepts, it is possible to pursue the offender for intentional conduct. He was already convicted for manslaughter, so the result of the criminal case offers strong support for a civil lawsuit. Often, the problem is with collecting monetary damages, since the monetary damages for losses in a wrongful death case can reach into the millions.

Mr. Bergmanis noted that there may be another party that the victim’s family can pursue for compensation. “Aside from intentional misconduct, there may be negligent acts that contribute to the person’s death. In this case, the bar could be liable for negligence under the theory of inadequate security.”

In a Minnesota negligent or inadequate security case, a type of premises liability action, the focus is on the property owner’s duty to keep the space safe. The family of the decedent may succeed with a wrongful death claim if they can show that the bar owner failed to install cameras, hire security guards, or otherwise prevented the fatal assault from occurring.

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