Missouri City/Houston, Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit News
Vanessa Guillén was a 20-year-old Fort Hood stationed Army specialist who was murdered inside the Fort Hood base armory. In August, 2022, Vanessa’s family filed a wrongful death claim against the United States Army. Military wrongful death claims were formerly prohibited because of a previously held doctrine that maintained that combat or training casualties could not be used as the basis to sue the military. A recent Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruling in an Army sexual assault case made the Guillén case filing possible.
The Army Failed to Act
Vanessa had been subject to sexual harassment instigated by Fort Hood soldiers. In one incident, a supervisor pointed a portable light at Vanessa while she was washing outside during a training exercise. Another time, Vanessa was asked to join a sexual threesome. No action was taken when Vanessa reported the incident to superiors. Friends and family members corroborated that Vanessa had been sexually assaulted while enlisted.
What is Wrongful Death?
A Texas wrongful death occurs if:
- A person’s death is caused by an injury.
- “(The) injury was caused by the person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”*
- If the injured person had been alive, they would have been entitled and able to file a personal injury claim.
Car accidents, medical malpractice and criminal acts like Vanessa’s killing are examples that could be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Comparison to a Criminal Case
In a criminal murder case, for example, the prosecution must establish a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Cornell Law explains that “this means that the prosecution must convince the jury that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial.” In a civil wrongful death proceeding, the plaintiff must only show a preponderance of evidence that the defendant caused the wrongful death.
If a defendant is found guilty in a Texas criminal case they can be sent to jail or even face the death penalty. If a defendant is found guilty in a Texas wrongful death case, the consequence is a court-determined payment to the plaintiff’s survivors.
Who Can File?
Texas law specifically states that the following relatives or representatives of the deceased person can file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Personal representative or estate executor.
Allowed Damage Claims
Lost inheritance, lost comfort, lost love or companionship, lost support and advice and lost earning capacity are only some of the damages that can be sought in a Texas wrongful death lawsuit. Even punitive damages are allowed in some wrongful death actions. Note: Wrongful death claims must be filed within two tears of a person’s death.
Consult an Experienced Attorney
The roads of criminal and wrongful death lawsuits take different directions, and the elements of a Texas wrongful death lawsuit can be difficult to understand for those not formally trained as law practitioners. Therefore, if you, a friend or a family member are involved in any situation that might precipitate a wrongful death lawsuit filing, it is best to seek the services of an experienced attorney. Missouri City personal injury lawyer Henrietta Ezeoke will be happy to discuss your particular case and advise of prudent next steps. Don’t hesitate–call today at 713-234-0030 to schedule a consultation or visit the online site to fill out a contact form.