Wrongful death occurs when someone dies as a direct result of the negligence and/or recklessness of another person or entity, explains Berkowitz and Hanna LLC. When the surviving family files a wrongful death lawsuit, the burden of proof is on their legal representatives – to convince the court that the death was caused by the defendant’s negligence or intentionally wrongful actions. In a recent wrongful death case in Texas, against Caterpillar Inc. and two other defendants, the plaintiff claims that the bulldozer was defective and is seeking “an award of exemplary damages.”
Plaintiffs in a product liability case may seek compensatory, punitive and/or exemplary damages. Exemplary damages (often called punitive damages), are awarded in a lawsuit when the defendant’s willful actions are proven to be malicious, fraudulent, violent, oppressive or grossly negligent and are meant to both punish the defendant and to set a public example/message.
In this Texas case, Emory Bowie, a bulldozer operator, was killed in 2007 when he rose from his seat, became entangled by the Cat’s tracks and was subsequently crushed. His wife, Sharecka Bowie, is claiming that a defect in the dozer’s design caused it to move in reverse, resulting in her husband’s fatal fall. The defendants contend that Mr. Bowie was killed from his own negligence while operating the machine.
The case is currently at the pre-trial stage and, according to Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, the result will all come down to a factual determination of who, if anyone, was negligent.
Note: Berkowitz and Hanna LLC did not represent any of the parties in this case.
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