Celebrities’ lives play out in the public eye, and all too often their deaths do, too. And often these lives and deaths serve as a miniature version of what is going on in our country as a whole. Here are 5 recent celebrity wrongful death cases that highlight important aspects of wrongful death in America.
The King of Pop’s death in 2009 due to acute drug poisoning is all too apt for our country as a whole. Prescription drug poisoning is on the rise in the US, and is now one of the leading causes of accidental death. In 2011, his personal doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for prescribing a combination of the anesthesia medication propofol and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications.
Questions still at issue in the wrongful death trial are whether the concert promoter that connected Jackson with his doctor adequately screened that doctor, and whether they were in part responsible for the singer’s premature death.
Expendables 2 Stunt Actor Kun Liu
You’ve probably never heard of Kun Liu, because he’s the unknown stuntman hired to make Jet Li look good. He was killed during a stunt sequence that went awry when filming the movie in Bulgaria. The stunt was being run by the second unit stunt team, and the family alleges that the stunts were poorly set up and led to Liu’s injuries and eventual death.
Americans love their summer blockbusters, craving ever-bigger and more dangerous stunts, although the film industry’s safety record has been remarkable since the tragic circumstances on the set of The Twilight Zone in 1982. The stuntman’s family filed their suit for “more than $25,000,” which demonstrates the disparity in treatment between the star’s lead actors who may earn $15 million or more per film, compared to 5-digit salaries for stunt men who risk their lives.
Derek Boogaard was an “enforcer” for the New York Rangers. In 2011, he died from poisoning due to alcohol and opioid painkillers. Like Michael Jackson, his death highlights the dangers of prescription medications, but his death also highlights the brutal punishment professional athletes suffer. Like the NFL, which recently settled a huge lawsuit brought by former players who were victims of concussions, the NHL is currently grappling with the role that violence plays in its game, and how best to protect its players from lifelong injuries.
In their lawsuit, parents allege that Boogaard was not informed of the risks associated with his position. From his position as a left winger, Boogaard was expected to play rough with members of opposing teams, and to initiate and finish fights. In addition, they say, NHL doctors did not talk to him about the risks of painkiller addictions and continued to give him medications when his addiction was clear.
John Ritter’s death in 2003 reflects one of the most common types of medical malpractice: a failure to diagnose heart ailments. Lawsuits targeted doctors that looked at body scans in 2001 as well as ones that treated him the night of his death. Ritter was treated as if he were having a heart attack, but his true ailment, a tear in his aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, was not discovered until it was too late.
Although the family received plenty of money (at least $23 million) in out-of-court settlements, they went to trial because they wanted an accounting of Ritter’s death. The settlements came with no admission of guilt or even an apology, and his widow wanted to make sure that someone took responsibility for her husband’s death.
Like Ritter’s widow, many people who file wrongful death lawsuits are looking for that: a true explanation and accounting of their loved one’s death. The money to pay bills is important, but so is knowing that your loved one’s memory is honored by revealing the truth of their death.
For help pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible for your loss, please contact us.