According to Reuters, New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer, announced on October 31st that the city would pay $2.25 million to resolve a wrongful death claim brought against them by Alma Murdough regarding the death of her son. Murdough filed a wrongful death claim after her son Jerome, a Marine Corps veteran, was found dead in his jail cell on Rikers Island eight days after being initially arrested for criminal trespassing.
Alma Murdough filed her lawsuit after details began to emerge of her son’s death on February 15th. In the lawsuit, Ms. Murdough claimed that her son’s cell was 103 degrees Fahrenheit and that his body was also 103 degrees hours after being discovered. According to the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner stated that Murdough’s death had been the result of “hypothermia due to environmental exposure of heat.” Following Murdough’s death, Stringer released a series of statements regarding the safety, or apparent lack thereof, of inmates at Rikers. Stringer claimed that the penitentiary was “broken” and in need of reform. Consequently, Murdough’s death appeared to be a glaring case of negligence by prison officials, leading to the multimillion dollar settlement.
While the death of Jerome Murdough was a fairly clear-cut case of negligence on the city’s behalf, most wrongful death cases aren’t nearly as obvious. Wrongful death cases can be extremely complex that require a number of factors to be true in order to have a claim. To have a valid wrongful death claim, the loved ones of the victim must be able to prove that the death occurred due to the negligence of another individual or entity. Additionally, they must be able to demonstrate that they suffered either significant financial or emotional suffering due to their loved one’s death. Examples of financial or emotional suffering could be the loss of an essential income, funeral costs, the cost of medical bills incurred prior to death, the economic loss that can be attributed to the loss of a parent, and pain and suffering before the victim’s death.
Considering the complexity of wrongful death cases, individuals who have lost a loved one due to unnatural causes should seek the counsel of an experienced attorney. An attorney will review all aspects of what lead to their loved one’s life including interviewing witnesses, reviewing police reports, file the lawsuit, and when necessary representing victim’s families at trial.