There are some examples of wrongful death cases in which the law clearly establishes a family has a right to recover damages for the loss of a loved one. When a negligent driver of a car collides with another vehicle killing one of its passengers, that passenger’s family or representative possesses a right to bring a wrongful death action against that driver. When a factory exposes its workers to a toxic substance which contributes to the death of an employee, that employee’s family may have a cognizable right to a wrongful death claim against the company operating the factory. In each case, the negligent driver or the worker’s employer owed a duty to the deceased: in the case of the driver, the duty to drive safely so as not to harm others on the road and, in the case of the employer, the duty to provide a work environment free from work-related dangers.
A recent dismissal of a wrongful death case involving the deaths of two USC students provides a different example. In Wanzi Qu et. al. v. University of Southern California, the 2nd Appellate Division of the California Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a wrongful death action in which the plaintiffs failed to state a cognizable claim. The two graduate students were robbed and killed in a neighborhood around USC’s campus. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the university breached its duty to provide a safe environment for the students “by not providing security; by not warning them it was in a high crime area; and by misleading them into thinking it was safe to live and go into the area.” The plaintiffs claimed that representations made on the university’s website concerning “quick response zones” and “patrolled zone” near the campus created a duty of care which it breached when no security personnel prevented the robbery and killing of these two students.
The plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed at the pleading stage after the University’s demurrer to the allegations in the lawsuit was sustained. The Court found that representations included on the school’s website did not create a duty to provide the security necessary to keep these students safe from criminals in the vicinity. It emphasized that a university does not have the same duty to adult students as owed by schools to minor students. The court also found that published representations about the reputation and status of the university nationally made by others does not create such a duty. The outcome of this case stands in stark contrast to the two types of cases concerning the motor vehicle accident and toxic exposure each of which provide clearer examples of actionable wrongful death claims.
The Wilson Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, at 1120 Iron Point Rd Suite 100, Folsom, CA 95630 handles wrongful death cases for the families or representatives of deceased individuals. Call The Wilson Law Firm, a Professional Corporation at the firm’s office at: 916-608-8891 to set up an appointment to speak with Attorney Dennis Wilson or visit its website at http://wilsonlawfirmca.com /.