A judge has decided that a man who shot and killed an intruder in his home, can be sued by the dead man's family.
The wrongful death lawsuit seeks $505,000 from the man who came home to find his front door kicked in and a nearly naked man in his living room. Police declined to prosecute the resident, but a judge, last month, said the civil case can move ahead.
In June 2012, an Oregon man returned to his home with his girlfriend after an evening out. They found his front door kicked in and a nearly naked intruder on the sofa. According to police reports, the 33-year-old intruder attacked the man and started strangling him. With his girlfriend's help, the man broke free and reached for a handgun he had hidden in the sofa. He shot the intruder once in the back at close range. All three were reportedly intoxicated at the time of the incident and the couple told police they did not know the intruder.
Last year, a lawsuit was filed against the resident on behalf of the parents and son of the intruder. The lawsuit alleges that the resident used reckless and excessive force against the intruder. The family's attorney suggested the resident provoked a confrontation by entering his own home after finding the door kicked in, instead of remaining outside and calling the police. However, the resident's attorney, arguing to throw out the case, said that Washington state law allows the use of defensive deadly force in such circumstances. In addition, his attorney argued, statutes defend against civil claims when the person who was harmed was committing a felony and that his conduct was “a substantial factor contributing to his death.”
However, the judge sided with the family of the intruder, saying there was not definitive proof that the intruder attacked the couple before being shot.
In their bid for damages, the family cited loss of life and loss of “companionship and support” from the dead man. In a civil suit, there are two types of damages: compensatory (or actual damages) and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are money awarded to compensate for actual losses such as future earnings, medical bills, and funeral expenses. Punitive damages are considered punishment and awarded when the defendant's behavior is found to be especially harmful. The compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to cover the earnings of the deceased, as well as attempt to provide emotional comfort for loved ones and support the person for whom the earnings would have provided.
Earlier this year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a Montana homeowner who shot and killed an intruder. The homeowner said the intruder was moving toward him and he feared for his life. The lawsuit claims the intruder was running away when he was shot.
In 2011, the family of a burglar who was shot and killed while breaking into a Colorado car lot was awarded almost $269,500 in their wrongful death lawsuit.
No matter the circumstances, if you have been injured or a loved one killed as a result of someone else's reckless behavior, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.