Most of our San Jose readers are probably used to seeing wrongful death lawsuits most commonly associated with fatal accidents, such as car accidents or motorcycle accidents, where a death occurred due to one party's negligence. However, one wrongful death claim that was recently filed against the city of Modesto and the Modesto Police Department arose under much different circumstances.
According to the reports, the incident in question in the lawsuit occurred back over the course of the late evening hours of June 21 and into the early morning hours of June 22. The reports indicate that a young mother, a 26-year-old Modesto resident, died in her home after she set fire to the residence. As sad as that sounds, it appears that the lawsuit is alleging that the death of this young woman should have been prevented.
It seems that police officers responded to this woman's home after she placed a call to 911. After the law enforcement officials arrived at the scene and evaluated the situation, which the reports indicate included seeing the woman holding a knife and, in general, acted distraught, the decision was made to remove the woman's 4-year-old daughter from the situation. But, the biggest mistake that the lawsuit alleges was made by the authorities was to leave the 26-year-old mother alone at the scene afterward. The fire at the woman's residence started shortly thereafter.
The woman's sister brought the wrongful death claim on behalf of the young mother's 4-year-old daughter. Some experts, however, has opined that this will be a difficult case to prove. However, if the claim is successful, damages could be awarded to cover the medical expenses involved, as well as funeral expenses and an award for the lost earnings of the mother.
Source: Merced Sun-Star, "$5 million wrongful death claim made against city of Modesto, Police Department in mother's death," Kevin Valine, Dec. 23, 2013
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