Wrongful Death Attorney Atlanta

Blake Ledbetter Atlanta AttorneyAuthor: J. Blake Ledbetter, Partner, Conoscienti & Ledbetter

Mr. Ledbetter specializes in civil litigation in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, and possesses vast experience in wrongful death lawsuits. Mr. Ledbetter was recognized as a SuperLawyers Rising Star in 2018 and 2019 in the area of Civil Litigation. Published on July 25, 2018, last updated on May 16, 2019.

The Right Wrongful Death Lawyers in Atlanta

When someone dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, the victim’s family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit seeking financial justice and reparations for their loss. Many wrongful death actions follow in the aftermath of criminal trials, often seeking financial justice by the member’s of the deceased family.

If your loved one has passed after an injury or accident brought on by the negligence or misconduct of another person, company or entity, you may need the services of a wrongful death attorney in Atlanta to make your claim against those responsible. Particularly in light of time deadlines for filing such a lawsuit, you need to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can, for a free initial case review and to explore your legal rights and your possible case.

Wrongful Death Attorney Atlanta

Wrongful death lawsuits involve a very specific area of personal injury law. That’s why you need experienced Atlanta lawyers who have deep knowledge and experience preparing your wrongful death case. Your wrongful death attorney Atlanta will act as an advocate on your behalf as you navigate the often confusing civil court system.

Each state like Georgia has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or collection of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death lawsuits.

Wrongful death in Georgia is a cause of action created by statute, which means that it is governed by a law passed by the legislature. A claim for wrongful death may be brought if there’s a death arising from the negligent, reckless, deliberate, or criminal activities by a different individual, business, or company.

The office of Conoscienti and Ledbetter is exactly the kind of legal team you want on your side when you’re filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta. They are considered experts in the field, and wrongful death is one of their primary practice areas. 

The wrongful death attorneys in our firm are Joseph A. Conoscienti and J. Blake Ledbetter, who are supported by a skilled, compassionate team of legal professionals. Each member brings something special to the table. Firm founder Joe Conoscienti has more than 37 years of legal experience under his belt. An Air Force veteran, he graduated from the Potomac School of Law in 1980 and was admitted to the Georgia State Bar the following year. His specialty is criminal law, and he’s licensed to try cases in Georgia State and Superior Courts, the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals. He’s also an Associate Judge for the Municipality of Avondale Estates.

Mr. Ledbetter is a graduate of the Georgia State Law School and became a partner in 2013. He’s a member in good standing of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Southern Trial Lawyers Association, and the Young Lawyers Division of the Georgia Bar. His specialty is civil litigation, and he was named a 2018 SuperLawyers Rising Star in that practice area, which includes wrongful death.

When it comes to your wrongful death suit in Atlanta, Conoscienti and Ledbetter will put their experience, compassion, and tenacity to use advocating for you.

What Is Wrongful Death? An Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer Explains

A death can qualify as wrongful death when the person dies due to accident, negligence, or malpractice. Here are some common instances that, if they result in death, could lead to legal consequences such as a wrongful death lawsuit:

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases

  • Traffic accidents including accidents involving rideshare services, drunk driving cases, and more
  • Medical malpractice (operations gone wrong)
  • Defective products
  • Supervised activities in a daycare, adult care, or field trip environment
  • Nursing home or assisted living negligence or abuse
  • Criminal activities
  • Fire and premises liability
  • Occupational accidents

It is important to know that wrongful death cases are handled in civil court, not a criminal court, so a wrongful death case will not send the defendant to prison. The civil statutes regarding wrongful death are determined at the state level, which is why you should choose an experienced wrongful death attorney in Atlanta to prepare your case.

Particularly in light of time deadlines for filing such a lawsuit, you need to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can, for a free initial case review and to explore your legal rights and your possible case.

The Process Explained by an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate families who are left without their loved one due to someone’s carelessness or a willful act. Though of course a lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one or make up for their death, the intention of a wrongful death suit is to ensure the family receives monetary compensation for their loss.

This monetary compensation can ease some of the burdens on the family in a very difficult time.

A wrongful death case is brought on behalf of the victim’s estate and litigated by an attorney; any compensation awarded goes to the victim’s family. Your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death to determine if you have a valid legal case. If all of the conditions are met, he’ll work with you to prepare your civil action against the responsible party. 

If a person is killed during a crime, such as during a robbery or assault, or if a person, company, or entity caused an accident or permitted conditions that resulted in someone’s death, it can potentially result in a wrongful death suit.

Another case where death can be considered legally wrongful is if a medical professional failed to follow widely accepted medical practices or take necessary precautions, acted negligently, or abused a patient in such a way that it resulted in their death.

Parties in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The person bringing civil litigation is known as the “Plaintiff.”

When a person has passed who do not possess a will in Georgia, a court like the Dekalb Probate Court or Fulton County Probate Court will appoint an executor or personal representative of property. In that case, the Plaintiff in the suit is ordinarily the estate’s executor or personal representative.

In this case, the executor or personal representative brings litigation on behalf of the deceased’s heirs to the court in the Atlanta metropolitan area where the deceased lived.

The individual or entity against whom the suit is brought is the “Defendant.” The suit will make the claim that the Defendant acted in an intentional or negligent manner and has been responsible for the untimely death of the deceased individual. A famous example for Atlanta residents would be the Tex McIver case, which we document more thoroughly below among other examples of other wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia. 

Although the plaintiff in such cases is technically the estate of the deceased, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by surviving parents, spouses, or on behalf of minor children. All of these details can certainly be confusing, which is why it pays to have competent and effective wrongful death counsel on your side.

If you have questions about a potential wrongful death lawsuit, contact Blake Ledbetter today to discuss your options and gain peace of mind. 

Factors Involved in Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuits 

In order for a person or another entity to be held legally accountable for the death, four factors must be present:

  1. Negligence: The Plaintiff must show the court that the Defendant in question was negligent and that it was the Defendant’s clear negligence that caused the deceased’s death. Plaintiff is entitled to any damages. Your wrongful death attorney must show that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence resulted in a death.


  2. Duty of care: Your lawyer must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, such as a doctor to a patient, a caregiver to someone in their charge, or the driver of a vehicle. The Plaintiff must show to the court that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased individual. As an example, in the case of a car crash, the Plaintiff must show that the Defendant had a duty to comply with the Rules of the Road and drive carefully while operating an automobile. A real-world example from the headlines would be the death of Michael Jackson under the care of Dr. Conrad Murray. After the death of Michael Jackson, his father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Murray, who had Michael under his care at the time.


  3. Breach of duty: You must prove to the court that the defendant failed to live up to that duty, whether intentionally or through negligence. The Plaintiff has to prove that the Defendant violated the duty of care owed to the Plaintiff. In our example above with Michael Jackson, the alleged breach would be highlighted by the peculiar treatments that Dr. Conrad was administering to Mr. Jackson, using propofol, a powerful drug, to help him sleep. In this case, it would be up to experts to determine if the unusual regiment of care provided by Dr. Conrad constituted a breach of the duty of care.


  4. Causation: Finally, your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the specific actions, or inaction, on the part of the defendant are what caused the death to occur. It isn’t enough that the Plaintiff only demonstrates the Defendant broke the law in a certain fashion or violated a duty in another manner. The Plaintiff must also demonstrate that Defendant’s specific actions proximately caused the wrongful death. So, even if Dr. Conrad’s treatments were incorrect and put Michael Jackson at risk, it doesn’t necessarily constitute causation. Michael Jackson could have had other, prior medical conditions which led to his death outside of the peculiar treatments by Dr. Conrad. 

The Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The plaintiff’s estate, through their wrongful death attorney Atlanta, is required to meet the legal standard of burden of proof before the court.

In Georgia, like in most states, you have to prove your case with a preponderance of the evidence. That means the facts and evidence presented to the court must support the four criteria listed above, meeting the legal definition of responsibility for a wrongful death action. Though regulations in each State may explain the Burden of Proof otherwise, every state normally requires the Plaintiff to show the elements of negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A skilled, experienced wrongful death litigator will work with you and the facts of your case to make this happen.

All of these elements have to line up for the case to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. State laws vary and it’s important to speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney in your locale.

The Burden of Proof isn’t a measure of the quantity of proof the Plaintiff proffers. The burden of proof is not determined by the number of witnesses or a number of medical tests. The quality of the evidence ultimately determines the successfulness of the action. If the Plaintiff fails to satisfy with the burden of proof on any of the components of negligence, the Plaintiff will not recover any damages for wrongful death.

While lots of wrongful death lawsuits are solved by pre-trial settlement arrangements, some can only be solved by going into trial. Based on the state in which the case has been heard, a judge or a jury can decide whether the Plaintiff has fulfilled the Burden of Proof on the evidentiary requirements.

The majority of states don’t require the jury reach a unanimous verdict, however, the principles governing jury deliberations do vary from state to state.

Georgia Wrongful Death Statute and How an Attorney Can Help

The State of Georgia has specific guidelines regarding cases of wrongful death occurring in their jurisdiction. These guidelines are enumerated in Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4. Your wrongful death attorney Atlanta will explain the law as it relates to your particular circumstances, but here is an overview of what Georgia law has to say about wrongful death.

What Is a Wrongful Death in Georgia?

Under Georgia state law, wrongful death is defined as any death caused by negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts. Negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable care when that person or entity would normally be required to do so.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

Wrongful death litigants are decided in order of legal relation to the deceased. The spouse is first in line and must represent the interests of any minor children. By law, the surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum of one-third of the award, regardless of the number of children. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the case may be brought by the parent or parents of the deceased. With no living immediate family member, the case can be brought by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate.

What Damages Can Be Awarded in a Georgia Wrongful Death Action?

There are two different awards available in Georgia wrongful death cases. The first is based on the perceived monetary value of the deceased’s life. That is determined by the number of lost wages and benefits, including the potential future earnings had the person lived, and the value of the loss of care, companionship, and other intangible elements. The second type of compensation is to reimburse expenses directly related to death. These include the cost of medical care, burial and funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering of the deceased in the advent of their death.

Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The Statute of Limitations for filing wrongful death lawsuits in the State of Georgia is two years after the date on which the victim passed away. This two-year deadline can be paused and restarted under certain circumstances. Your wrongful death attorney Atlanta will be able to determine if those circumstances apply in your case.

Relevant Sections of the Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4 – Wrongful Death

There are five sections of the chapter of the Georgia Code that deals with wrongful death. The first chapter is simply definitions used within the chapter. The other sections speak to specific circumstances, such as who can file for wrongful death in the case of a deceased child, mother, or spouse, and who receives what portion of the monetary proceedings. For example, here is what Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4 – 2 says about the wrongful death of a spouse or parent:

51-4-2. Persons entitled to bring action for wrongful death of spouse or parent; survival of action; release of wrongdoer; disposition of recovery; exemption of recovery from liability for decedent’s debts; recovery not barred by child’s being born out of wedlock

(a) The surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, a child or children, either minor or sui juris, may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.

(b) (1) If an action for wrongful death is brought by a surviving spouse under subsection (a) of this Code section and the surviving spouse dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the child or children of the decedent.

(2) If an action for wrongful death is brought by a child or children under subsection (a) of this Code section and one of the children dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the surviving child or children.

(c) The surviving spouse may release the alleged wrongdoer without the concurrence of the child or children or any representative thereof and without any order of the court, provided that such spouse shall hold the consideration for such release subject to subsection (d) of this Code section.

(d) (1) Any amount recovered under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be equally divided, share and share alike, among the surviving spouse and the children per capita, and the descendants of children shall take per stirpes, provided that any such recovery to which a minor child is entitled and which equals less than $15,000.00 shall be held by the natural guardian of the child, who shall hold and use such money for the benefit of the child and shall be accountable for the same; and any such recovery to which a minor child is entitled and which equals $15,000.00 or more shall be held by a guardian of the property of such child.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1) of this subsection, the surviving spouse shall receive no less than one-third of such recovery as such spouse’s share.

(e) No recovery had under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be subject to any debt or liability of the decedent.

(f) In actions for recovery under this Code section, the fact that a child has been born out of wedlock shall be no bar to recovery.

Source: 2017 Georgia Code, Title 51 – Torts, Chapter 4: Wrongful Death 

Particularly in light of time deadlines for filing such a lawsuit, you need to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can, for a free initial case review and to explore your legal rights and your possible case.

Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Explains Damages

Damages in a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In a wrongful death case in Georgia, pecuniary (financial) damages are awarded based on loss of service, the anticipation of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. When determining financial loss, it’s pertinent to take into account the age, character, and condition of the deceased, their earning ability, life expectancy, health, and intelligence, in addition to the conditions of the recipients.

Determining Financial Loss in Georgia

This determination might appear straightforward, but it often becomes a complicated inquiry, keeping in mind that the amount of damages is an actual financial loss. Normally, the primary consideration in awarding damages is that the deceased’s situation at the time of passing. By way of instance, when an adult wage earner with children dies, the significant areas of the retrieval are 1) loss of earnings and 2) loss of parental guidance.

The jury may consider the decedent’s earnings at the time of departure, the last known earnings if unemployed, and potential future earnings.

Depending on the case, this information can be based on the decedent’s actual earnings, an estimate of the future income, and expert testimony. In the case of a child’s death, the effects of parental grief and future potential are also factored in.

Adjustments in the Atlanta Jury’s Award

Your wrongful death legal team in Atlanta can file for an adjustment of the compensatory award if circumstances change in the future.

In a wrongful death action, the jury determines the magnitude of the damages award after hearing the evidence. The jury’s decision isn’t the last word, however, as the size of this award can be adjusted upward or downward by the court for many different factors.

As an example, if the decedent routinely squandered his income, this might reduce your family’s recovery. In the same way, the courts will decrease a jury’s award if the decedent had poor earnings (even when he was young), had great potential and supported several children. At precisely the exact same time, a jury may award lost earnings regardless of the decedent’s having been unemployed, if he’d worked before and if the plaintiff presented evidence of the decedent’s average earnings while employed.

If the plaintiffs fail to present such proof of the deceased’s average earnings, the court can set aside the jury’s damage award and order a new trial.

Using Experts to Determine Financial Loss

Plaintiffs can present expert testimony from financial professionals to establish the value of the deceased to his loved ones. Until recently, this testimony wasn’t admissible when a housewife died, but that rule has changed. When the decedent is a housewife who wasn’t employed outside the home, the financial effect on the survivors won’t involve a reduction of income, but increased expenditures to continue the services she was providing or would have provided if she’d lived. Because jurors might not be knowledgeable regarding the monetary value of a housewife’s services, experts may aid the jury in this evaluation.

In Georgia wrongful death cases, there are two different types of claims. The first is the actual wrongful death claim, which is the value of the lost life as described above. The second kind of claim is an estate claim. These claims are filed on behalf of the estate and cover not only the value of the lost life but compensation for pain and suffering as well as expenses incurred by the estate as a result of the injury or death. Your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta can help you figure out the specifics of what to ask for in your claim.

Punitive Damages for an Atlanta Wrongful Death Claim

Punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish the wrongdoer or deter others from behaving similarly. In many states, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death act. There are a number of states, however, that have specific statutes that permit the recovery of punitive damages. In states which don’t explicitly allow or disallow punitive damages in wrongful death actions, courts have held punitive damages permissible. The right Atlanta lawyers will have the ability to advise you regarding whether your state allows punitive damages.

Survival Actions in Georgia

A survival action, on the other hand, centers around the anguish of the deceased individual (who attorneys and judges frequently refer to as the “decedent”) instead of the despair and financial losses of their household. In a survival action, the decedent’s estate can recover compensation concerning the pain and anguish of the victim along with the decedent’s medical bills and lost earnings–comparable to what the individual might have recovered in personal injury litigation if they had endured. The reimbursement is then distributed through the deceased individual’s estate as opposed to dispersed directly to living relatives.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Atlanta

You may have heard of some high profile wrongful death lawsuits in Atlanta on the news or online. Below are some local examples of wrongful death to better illustrate how wrongful death lawsuits work.

Diane McIver Estate vs. Tex McIver and Dani Jo Carter

This case was brought by the estate of Diane McIver, a murder victim, against her husband and her best friend. The victim’s husband Tex McIver was sent to prison for life during the criminal trial, but the wrongful death suit against McIver and Carter argues that the victim’s death was an accident. Carter was driving the SUV in which the McIvers were passengers when Diane McIver was shot. She is accused of contributing to Diane’s death by driving recklessly and not stopping the vehicle to call 911. The estate is attempting to make this claim in order to obtain pecuniary damages from the car insurer. The suit is still in progress as of this writing.

Cobb County and Wellstar Hospital

This suit involved a health system, a county jail, and a prisoner, Mr. Justin Graham. Mr. Graham was arrested for DUI and detained in the Cobb County jail in 2006. After a few weeks in jail, he was transferred to Wellstar Hospital where he died from cirrhosis of the liver. Graham’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the jail and hospital. Though both parties were cleared of wrongdoing, Cobb County was contractually obligated to reimburse the hospital for $300,000 in legal fees incurred by WellStar Health Systems during the case.

Bobbi Kristina Judgment

This case gained global attention due to the fact that the decedent, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was the only child and heir of international superstars Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston. Ms. Brown’s estate filed a claim after her boyfriend, Nick Gordon, was found legally responsible for her death. He was suspected of domestic abuse due to the condition of the body at autopsy, though the official cause of death was ruled to be “immersion in water and drug intoxication.” Ms. Brown’s estate sought $50 million in the case and was awarded $36 million.

Wrongful Death Suit against Andrea Sneiderman

Andrea Sneiderman served just one year short of a five-year sentence after being convicted of obstruction and lying to investigators after the murder of her husband. Her late husband’s parents and brother then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mrs. Sneiderman, claiming she knew that her former supervisor, with whom she was having an affair, intended to murder her husband. The suit, which claimed that she was “an active and willing co-conspirator,” was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.

Estate of Willie Allen Sargent Jr. vs. Gwinnett County

The widow of Willie Allen Sargent Jr. filed a wrongful death suit against Gwinnett county after her husband was killed by a speeding Gwinnett County police officer. In this case, the officer was responding to a call, however, he did not have his flashing lights or siren on, and he was driving about 80 mph when he slammed into Mr. Sargent’s vehicle. Sargent’s widow was awarded $2 million in her case against Gwinnett County, and the officer was suspended at the time. He later resigned from the police force after being arrested for drunk driving while off duty.

George Houser & Forum Group: Nursing Home Neglect

This wrongful death case resulted in a nursing home operator, George D. Houser, and his company, Forum Group, being ordered to pay out $43.5 million to the estate of a man who allegedly died from neglect in the facility. This payout is believed to be the highest in state history from a nursing home. The decedent fell multiple times while in the home’s care, at one point breaking his hip, and his family was not notified of it. He was also malnourished and dehydrated when he passed away. The nursing home in question, located in Rome, Georgia, had previously been cited for state and federal violations, and the operator Mr. Houser has been accused of stealing over $30 million from Medicare and Medicaid.

South Fulton Day Camp Drowning

In July 2017, a 5-year-old boy tragically drowned while attending a day camp located in south Fulton County. His parents have filed a punitive wrongful death suit against the nature center, center employees, the owner of the property, and the city of Chattahoochee Hills. The family’s suit alleges their son was not properly supervised while at the camp, leading to his death.

Famous Wrongful Death Lawsuits Outside Atlanta

Oftentimes, individuals become conscious of the occurrence of a wrongful death lawsuit when viewing or hearing about famous cases making the headlines. Many famous wrongful death claims have occurred in reaction to criminal prosecution. While the defendant may face criminal charges, they also face wrongful death lawsuits and claims to provide monetary reimbursement to the decedent’s surviving family members. Following are a few of the famed wrongful death cases in the past couple of decades.

The OJ Simpson Civil Trial

The OJ Simpson trial is possibly the most famous, or notorious, wrongful death action. The slayings happened in Los Angeles’ richest suburbs.

The criminal offense itself was followed by a large audience on tv. It’s among the greatest criminal cases from the history of the nation. Once acquitted, the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson in civil court for the deaths of Nicole Simpson Brown and Ron Goldman. Simpson contested the criminal charges in court and was aquitted. Subsequently, the Brown and Goldman families filed a civil suit against Simpson for wrongful death and won.

Among the reasons why this lawsuit continues to reside in the minds of these public is that Simpson was later sentenced to prison in an unrelated case. In 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years is prison, with the chance of parole in 9 years, after being charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. Simpson appealed the decision claiming various grounds for appeal. Simpson was later released on Parole in 2017.

Singer and Songwriter Brandy

Brandy, the R&B songbird and former Moesha star, recently reached a settlement in the wrongful-death suit brought against her on behalf of the children whose mother died in a December 2006 multi-car crash.

In accordance with settlement records obtained by E! News, the children– Mrwan and Kareem Mohamed– each received $300,000.00 in settlement proceeds. The boys,15 and 11 years old at the time, were in the household’s Toyota Corolla when it was struck by Brandy’s Land Rover. Their mother, Awatef Aboudihaj, passed away as a result of the crash.

The Nancy Grace Case

In this case, the plaintiffs were the family of a 21-year-old Florida mom who killed herself a couple of days after being interviewed by Nancy Grace. Grace interviewed the young mother, Melinda Duckett, regarding the disappearance of her two year-old son, Trenton. Ms. Duckett was not a suspect in the child’s disappearance.

Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor herself, grilled Duckett in a harsh, accusatory manner about the whereabouts of the lost boy. As alleged by the Duckett family, this harsh line of questioning triggered significant psychological distress for Melinda Duckett, as Grace had insinuated that she’d murdered her own son. Only hours before the show was expected to air, Melinda Duckett took her own life. A settlement fund of $200,000 dedicated to finding the boy was created in 2010.

John Ritter

Ritter, whose acting career spanned over three decades, died of an undetected aortic dissection on Sept. 11, 2003. Ritter was on set for rehearsals of “8 Simple Rules” on Sept. 11, 2003, and he experienced acute nausea and vomiting.

His family received over $14 million in a settlement, including $9.4 million from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA, the hospital where Ritter passed away. California regulators faulted St. Joseph’s for failing to administer an X-ray of Ritter’s torso during Ritter’s stay, which had been ordered by an emergency room physician.

Michael Jackson

Back in August 2010, Joe Jackson, the father of Michael Jackson, filed a suit against Michael’s physician Dr. Conrad Murray, in reaction to the death of the renowned pop star due to the overdose on an anesthetic in 2009. The physician administered regular dosages of Propofol, in an effort to cure Michael’s chronic sleeplessness. The prescription medication wasn’t generally recognized as a sleeping aid, and the unusually large dose killed the singer.

Phil and Brynn Hartman

Phil Hartman, former comic and Saturday Night Live actor, was murdered in 1998 by his wife Brynn. Brynn then took her own life the murder/suicide sent shock waves throughout the country, as Hartman was adored by many. Brynn Hartman’s family were said to be shocked by the actions of Brynn. In Hartman v. Pfizer, Brynn’s brother brought a lawsuit against Pfizer Pharmaceuticals,  the manufacturer of the antidepressant Zoloft. Brynn was prescribed that the anti-depressant because she suffered from terror attacks.

The lawsuit alleged that Zoloft, a remarkably common drug,  drove Brynn to insanity and that the derangement induced her to take her husband’s life along with her own. Pfizer settled the case out of court. The amount of the settlement is confidential Zoloft still remains the subject of various class actions suits, in which plaintiffs allege the drug, prescribed for pregnant women to assist them to fight morning sickness, has generated various debilitating birth defects.

Robert Blake Murder Case

In 2003, jurors in a civil trial concluded that actor Robert Blake either murdered his wife, Bonnie Bakley or hired somebody else to murder. The jury awarded Bakley’s children $30 million to be paid by Blake in “wrongful death” damages, cash the 1970s TV star claimed he did not have.

10 of the 12 jurors agreed that it was “more likely than not” that Blake had been “accountable” for Bakley’s death. The jury did not need to choose whether Blake shot his wife or had somebody else do it, but rather that he shot his wife by a preponderance of the evidence. Blake had previously been acquitted in a criminal trial for murder that preceded the civil case.

Jenni Rivera

Esteban Loaiza, husband of singer Jenni Rivera, filed a wrongful death suit against the owners of the aircraft Jenni was a passenger in that crashed in northern Mexico, killing Ms. Rivera and six others. The lawsuit filed by Esteban seeks unspecified damages, even though he and Jenni were separated at the time of the crash.

The Ford Motor Pinto Case

In the 1970s Ford manufactured the Ford Pinto, a cheap and hot sedan. The automobile was made using a back mounted gas tanks.  It was later discovered that the gas tanks readily burst when the automobile was struck from behind regardless of the severity of the collision. Many wrongful death cases involving the Ford Pinto were brought; some were settled out of court and many others resulted in a trial.

Atlanta Wrongful Death FAQ

What if an individual dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?

It depends upon if the individual dies as a consequence of the injuries or from unrelated causes. Each state like Georgia has a law permitting an action when someone causes the wrongful death of another. If an individual in Atlanta with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most instances and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate.

Whenever someone dies, what’s the distinction between the criminal and civil cases which may be brought regarding the death?

A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish a person for an act that’s been classified as a crime. A civil case, on the other hand, generally has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties in Atlanta that individuals and organizations legally owe to one another. The burden of proof is much higher in a criminal case, and penalties are imposed in a criminal action and may result in imprisonment, a fine, and other forms of punishment.

Are punitive damages recoverable in wrongful death actions?

In most states like Georgia, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death act. There are a number of states, however, that do have specific statutes that permit recovery of punitive damages.

Are all state laws the same regarding wrongful deaths?

No, there are various differences among distinct state wrongful death laws. Determining the state in which you can (and should) bring a wrongful death action is an essential element of your claim because some states do not allow certain types of damage awards or may have different statutes of limitation that establish the timeframe in which you may file a lawsuit.

Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job? 

Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, he/she may have contributed in another way. A fantastic illustration of such a situation is the action for the wrongful death of a stay-at-home husband or wife in Atlanta who contributes services, guidance and nurturing of the family. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.

Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?

Yes, along with damages for the wrongful death, a decedent’s family or executor in Atlanta may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured before death.

Can I bring a wrongful death action based on the death of a child or an elderly person?

Yes, you may recover damages in a wrongful death cause of action in Atlanta for the death of a child or an elder individual. 


Conoscienti & Ledbetter, LLC

Atlanta Lawyers


(404) 373-5800
315 W Ponce de Leon Ave.
Suite 400
Decatur, GA 30030