Mr. Wildaire Jean, a 41-year-old from Salisbury, was killed in an accident at Donovan's Salvage Works while attempting to remove parts from a vehicle when a jack fell over and caused a van to crush him. His surviving family has since filed a wrongful death claim citing gross negligence among several other claims totals roughly $20 million in damages. The suit contends that Jean was provided a jack to use for lifting the vehicle that was not suitable for the work being conducted. The lawsuit states that the facility failed to “provide a safe place” for working.
The Delaware State Police report said the jack was unstable because it was placed upon a base of dirt and gravel. It further explained that a spare tire was used as a “buffer” below the vehicle. Jean was working alone at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead upon the arrival of emergency responders. Witnesses stated they saw him and workers had to use a forklift to remove the van as they awaited the emergency medical team. The plaintiffs in the case are his wife, Demarcia Jean-Pierre, and their three children. It was filed in the Sussex County Superior Court.
The claim states that Donovan's failed to “adequately detect and respond” to the emergency situation. The suit outlines a host of damages including future losses of wages and burial expenses. The $20 million amount is estimated based on awards in other “cases of this nature” recently. This is not the only fatality that has occurred on the property in recent years. In 2018, John Campbell, a 70-year-old man, was found dead at the salvage yard also following an accident.
Delaware Wrongful Death Code § 3724
Wrongful death actions in the state are brought by the surviving family of the deceased such as their spouse or children. If no immediate family members exist, the claim may be pursued by any party that is related through blood or marriage. If there are multiple claimants, any awards for damages would be allocated proportionally among them. A judge or jury is tasked with determining the appropriate amount of compensation to be awarded. In reaching the amounts of damages to be awarded they may consider the following:
- The amount of income that the beneficiaries would have received if the deceased were to have lived
- Any applicable support payments
- Losses associated with caring for surviving children
- Funeral and burial expenses of up to $7,000 or other amount based on statutory provisions
- Damages for mental anguish among surviving members of the family
The state does not impose a limitation (cap) on the number of damages that may be awarded in these civil matters. The state uses a modified comparative negligence method when allocating fault among parties. This means that in any awards for damages they may be reduced according to the percentage of fault that is attributed to a party. A plaintiff is only able to pursue damages if their degree or allocation of fault is less than that of the defendant(s).