Burglary Results in Wrongful Death of Accomplice Reports Austin Injury Lawyer
Oct 8, 2011
Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) October 7, 2011 – Even during the course of a crime, if someone is killed the family may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
“While it may seem odd that the family of someone who participated in a burglary in 2009, in this reported case, is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is their right to do so,” indicated Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.
The details of this incident are slightly unusual. Two men, both in their early twenties, were trespassing at an auto sales yard. One moment the yard was still and quiet, and in the next instant the sound of gunfire took over. One bullet, of the four or more fired, came so close to the second man present that night that the hair on the back of his neck stood up.
The second man reacted by taking off through the yard, heading towards a nearby fence and then hunkering down in someone’s backyard. The young man who was shot and killed had hidden inside a shed on the property. Across the lot, two armed men came running out of a building, firing randomly across the yard. The man in the shed was hit in the chest with a .45-caliber bullet that ripped through the door.
The dead man’s family is suing the owners of the car lot for lost wages, among other things, to recover money for the man’s two-year-old daughter. The deceased had recently graduated from college, with plans to become a diesel mechanic. The job could have netted him at least $800,000 during his lifetime.
In their lawsuit, his family stated the owners negligently armed themselves to ambush anyone who came on their property at night. They were acting as vigilantes and trying to protect their business from any further burglaries, and in doing so acted illegally and caused the death of their son. Defense counsel said the man tripped and the shot that killed the young father was fired by accident. “The landowners’ story does not explain the other three shots fired in the same direction as the dead man was hiding,” added Schuelke.
Evidently, both the men who were trespassing on the car lot that night were high on meth. This substance does not enhance accurate recall. Defense counsel sought to discredit the survivor’s testimony, but the man said he clearly recalled the string of cuss words issued when the two men burst out of the building firing weapons. That aside, the issue in this instance would be the men arming themselves and firing on people.
“The car lot owners were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury in 2009, hence the reason for the family of the dead man filing a wrongful death action,” Schuelke explained. “Civil trials are decided based on the preponderance of evidence, and not beyond a reasonable doubt as is necessary for criminal charges.”
Does the plaintiff stand a chance of winning? “Likely,” commented Schuelke. “Although the two men were trespassing, property owners are not given free rein to arm themselves and shoot at anything that moves. If they wanted to protect their property and knew there were trespassers, they should have just called the police. Instead, they took justice into their own hands, killing someone in the process.”
In a case like this, should the plaintiff prevail, there may be a reduction of any jury award handed down. The reduction would be for comparative negligence on the part of the deceased.
Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP
1717 W. 6th Street, Suite 375
Austin, Texas 78703-4868
Call (512) 476-4944