If you’ve recently lost a loved one in a sudden or unexpected way, you may be wondering what the criteria are for a wrongful death.
Put simply, a wrongful death is a death caused by someone else’s negligence. Negligence and wrongful death can take near-infinite different forms, but most of them fall into a few general categories.
Below, we’ll go into detail on some of the forms of negligence that pose the greatest threat to life in Peachtree Corners. If you would prefer to speak directly with a Peachtree Corners wrongful death lawyer about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat at any time.
Manufacturers Are Responsible for Making Sure Their Products Are Safe to Use
From a kitchen lighter, to a car, to an industrial meat grinder, every object sold in the U.S is supposed to be engineered and built for safety.
Obviously, there are lots of products that can’t be made 100% safe without also making them useless. The kitchen lighter has to produce a flame, the car has to move fast, and the meat grinder has to be able to grind meat. However, if there’s a feasible way of making a product safer to use, such as adding a childproof switch, an airbag, or a handguard, the manufacturer is obligated to do so. Any dangers that can’t be eliminated must carry warnings, along with instructions for safest possible use.
Products marketed to provide specific safety benefits must also live up to their advertising. For example, a defective smoke detector won’t directly start a fire, but it can still kill by not serving the function it’s sold for.
When a product harms a customer due to a needlessly dangerous design, faulty construction, or a lack of safety instructions, the manufacturer is responsible for that harm. In some cases, retailers may share responsibility too.
In September of 2018, dozens of Peachtree Corners residents lost their homes to one of the most notorious defective products of recent years: a hoverboard.
A family had bought the hoverboard for their daughter’s 12th birthday and then taken her out to dinner. While they were gone, the hoverboard started a fire in their living room at the Fields Peachtree Corners Apartments, which spread and damaged the entire building. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but only because of the fire department’s timely intervention. When they arrived, the flames had trapped multiple residents on a third-floor balcony.
New hoverboard designs are still being sold by multiple companies, and many may be perfectly safe, but recalls relating to fire hazards continued for years after this incident, affecting hundreds of thousands of boards.
High-tech new products aren’t the only ones that can be dangerous, either. Ordinary backyard grills have also started more than their share of disasters.
In August of 2020, a grilling-related fire burned down the Corners at 1700 Apartments, displacing eight people. Just under two years later, another one burned down the Rosemont Peachtree Corners apartment complex, displacing 12 families.
Either or both of these fires might have happened because the residents were grilling too close to the buildings. However, if the grills were not sold with clear warnings against this practice, that might still be the fault of the manufacturers. There’s also the possibility that leaks or other defects contributed to the fires.
If you believe your loved one’s death was linked to a needlessly dangerous product, you might have a case for wrongful death.
Service Providers Must Maintain Reliable Standards When Lives Are at Stake
Just like physical products, any service a company provides should be as harmless as possible, and when it’s something people will rely on for their health and safety, it should be reliable.
This applies to maintenance companies, which must screen for signs of danger in the equipment they service. It applies to healthcare providers, who can be sued for medical malpractice if their work isn’t up to industry standards. It also applies to daycares, nursing homes, K-12 schools, prisons, and any other entity that accepts custody of human beings, making itself responsible for their needs.
Unfortunately, the power imbalance that exists in many of these scenarios makes it easy for organizations to neglect those in their care, or worse.
Peachtree Corners has struggled with this phenomenon, particularly when it comes to the care of those with mental health problems. In December of 2019, police raided the local Lakeview Behavioral Health facility, in response to about 70 complaints. Among them were reports of physical and sexual abuse, theft, and one case of a patient dying as the alleged result of a fight.
If you believe your loved one’s death was related to neglectful professional care or other poorly rendered services, that might be grounds for a wrongful death suit.
Everyone Has a Basic Responsibility to Avoid Endangering Others
As noted above, wrongful death is death caused by negligence. And, in its simplest form, negligence is a failure to live up to one’s legal duties.
So far, we’ve talked about some specific duties that organizations take on when they engage in specific activities. However, there are some duties that apply to everyone at all times.
Both organizations and individuals have a standing duty to refrain from reckless behaviors that endanger others. Drunk driving is a very common example that frequently ends in wrongful death.
Negligence is also not limited to accidents. With some exceptions, like self-defense, everyone has a standing legal duty to refrain from committing violence against others. This means that murder is a type of wrongful death.
Criminal violence, and especially gun violence, is a serious and constant threat for many people living in Peachtree Corners.
These are just a few recent examples:
- In September of 2020, a man and woman were found shot in a car at the Reserve at Peachtree Corners apartment complex on Jones Mill Road. The man died from his injuries.
- In April of 2021, a man in his 20s was shot to death in the parking lot of the A-1 Market at Peachtree Corners Circle and Jones Mill Spur.
- In July of 2022, two men attempted to steal a car from the QuikTrip gas station at Peachtree Parkway and Peachtree Corners Circle. When the owner resisted, one of the robbers shot and killed him before fleeing. Two suspects were later arrested.
- In October of 2022, a 17-year-old student from Norcross High School was shot in Peachtree Corners near Technology Pkwy. The victim’s mother has since accused another student of luring him out of school to kill him.
Barring any unknown self-defense scenarios, every one of these deaths was wrongful. Unfortunately, in situations like these, the wrongfulness of the death is only one factor in determining whether a lawsuit is viable.
There’s a reason why wrongful death lawsuits against murderers are so rare. It’s because no matter how justified a lawsuit may be, the court can’t force a defendant to hand over assets they don’t have, and most individuals simply can’t pay for a worthwhile wrongful death settlement. Whereas auto insurance helps fill this gap in cases of drunk driving and other Peachtree Corners traffic accidents, there’s rarely any personal insurance in play that will pay for a murder.
However, there are often other parties who share responsibility for violent wrongful deaths, and who do have the ability to compensate the next of kin. More on that in the next section.
Landlords Share Responsibility for Many Kinds of Wrongful Death
Landlords who invite people onto their properties, whether as tenants, customers, guests, service personnel, or in any other capacity, have a duty to make sure the property is safe for them.
So, when a wrongful death happens on a property that doesn’t belong to the victim, it’s always worth looking into whether the landlord did their fair share to help prevent that tragedy.
Just like with product and service providers, there are a few practical exceptions to a landlord’s safety responsibilities. For example, a skate park can’t be made truly safe and still be a skate park, but it can be kept free of unnecessary hazards like loose railings. No property can be kept absolutely, 100% safe from random events like lightning strikes, but up-to-code architecture can minimize the risk.
The general rule is, if a danger can be predicted, and there’s something a landlord can do to reduce it, the landlord is obligated to do so.
Most of the incidents we’ve discussed so far could have been at least partially a landlord’s responsibility:
- In all of the apartment fires, the landlords were responsible for making sure any fires in their buildings would be easily containable, extinguishable, and escapable. How far the fires spread and how many people were trapped might indicate inadequate fireproofing or escape routes.
- In the grill fires in particular, the landlords could have banned grilling too close to the buildings, including on balconies, and enforced those bans.
- In the shootings, the landlords could have provided more security, proportionate to the high local risk of violent crime. Residential landlords can also improve safety by refusing to rent to tenants who use guns in an openly threatening or irresponsible way. At least one pair of Peachtree Corners residents were caught firing loaded guns into the air on July 4th of 2022, which should deeply concern any nearby property owners interested in keeping people safe.
- In the negligent care case, if the Lakeview Behavioral Health facility was operating on rented or leased space, the landlord would very likely share responsibility for allowing the alleged neglect and abuse to continue.
Landlord responsibility for allowing neglect and abuse on a property has come up in other contexts in Peachtree Corners as well.
In 2014, a 15-month-old child starved to death at the Extended Stay America on Jimmy Carter Blvd. The resulting investigation found the child’s mother and three other small children also living in the room in states of serious malnourishment. The child’s father, an alleged cult member, was arrested for murder, child cruelty, rape, and incest.
Extended Stay America was ultimately found partially responsible for the child’s death.
More recently, in November of 2021, an 8-year-old went missing from another Peachtree Corners hotel and was later found dead. The investigation uncovered video of her mother physically abusing her and her two siblings. The mother’s partner was charged with the child’s murder.
It would take more investigation to discover whether hotel management had reason to know what was happening, but the possibility shouldn’t be ruled out lightly.
If what killed your loved one happened on rented, commercial, or public property, a wrongful death lawyer can help determine the landlord’s level of responsibility.
The Stoddard Firm Can Help Peachtree Corners Families Affected by Wrongful Death
The Stoddard Firm has qualified, dedicated wrongful death lawyers who know Peachtree Corners, its relevant institutions, and the kinds of negligence its residents face.
We know Gwinnett County’s police department and superior court. We can coordinate with nearby hospitals, like Northside Hospital in Duluth or Atlanta, to establish your loved one’s cause of death and document all physical harm.
We’ll work with your chosen funeral home, like Crowell Brothers or the Neptune Society, to make absolutely sure that all evidence collection has been completed in time for your farewell service.
The main purpose of our work in wrongful death law is to help families find closure and justice, reclaim their financial security, and take time to grieve in peace. That’s why we use our connections to handle every step of the process as smoothly as possible.
If you’re interested in speaking with a Peachtree Corners wrongful death lawyer, just reach out at 678-RESULTS or through our online chat function for a free consultation.