Unusual Wrongful Death Claims

Posted by & filed under Medical Malpractice.

Wrongful death is a civil action brought against someone when it is alleged that their negligence or recklessness caused the death of someone else, even if they did not physically murder the person. Usually these claims stem from medical malpractice or vehicle accident, but sometimes they can result from unusual situations. It is important to know the components of a wrongful death suit, so you can distinguish when the cause of action applies and when it does not.

Inmate Deaths

Even though they have been incarcerated, inmates still have rights. They are protected under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, like all of us, against cruel and unusual punishment. If an inmate suffers cruel and unusual punishment, that can amount to murder, depending on the fact pattern. However, cases in which inmates wrongfully die have occurred due to someone’s (usually a guard’s) recklessness or negligence.

South Carolina has faced some sobering truths in recent years, including the frightening treatment of mentally ill inmates. In January 2014, Judge Michael Baxley ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable after a long trend of abuse and neglectful behavior by corrections officers, including refusing medications to inmates and disproportionate use of solitary confinement. Still, there has been very little indication that any manner of reform has come to the state’s prison system after Judge Baxley’s excoriation of these practices.

Sometimes inmate deaths are prosecuted under the rubric of prison abuse, but when suits are filed by surviving family members or a person’s estate, they are usually for wrongful death. They routinely occur in all states, with the most common cause being the withholding or alleged withholding of medical care. In April 2014, the fiancee of an inmate who died of an alleged heart attack at the Chester County jail brought a wrongful death suit against jail staff for failure to treat properly. As of this writing nothing has yet occurred of substance, but the suit has not been dropped.


It is fairly rare, but sometimes, a wrongful death claim is brought by the relatives of a suicide victim, While sometimes no one but the decedent is directly responsible for their passing, at times it can be alleged that another person ought to have taken steps to intervene, and their failure to do so was negligent.

The most common instances of this allegation are against medical professionals and school officials, in the case of a student. Medical professionals in particular may face allegations of negligence or malpractice – if they failed to notice suicidal tendencies, or neglected to pursue any particular avenue of treatment, it may be deemed to be actionable. Suicide wrongful death actions are based primarily in equity, meaning that the ultimate goal of such a suit is not necessarily compensation, but rather ensuring a specific non-tangible outcome – in this case, ensuring that a medical professional’s neglect ought not to cost any more lives in the future.

Contact A Wrongful Death Professional

If your family has experienced the wrongful death of a loved one in any manner, it can be debilitating. A wrongful death attorney can help your family receive compensation for what you have gone through. The attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse have years of experience that we will put to work for you. Contact us today at our North Charleston office for an initial consultation.