Imagine the horror and grief of losing a son and father to senseless gun violence. Consider the added insult that the hidden burial of the deceased has on closure for his surviving son and mother. Things could not possibly get worse or so one might think. This is exactly what happened recently in 2017 in Florida.
When the mother and five-year-old son filed claims of wrongful death against the killer the court initially denied their claims. The claims of fraud, wrongful death, and other charges were dismissed because the court interpreted the law in a manner that was not in compliance with decisions made by the Florida appellate courts.
The mother and son were not seeking to punish the killer of their father and son. They were seeking compensation that would provide support for the child and provide funds for an education. The man had already been found guilty of murder but the court found him not guilty of wrongful death.
The Florida injury attorney who represented the woman and her grand son appealed the case to the Florida State court of appeals. The court of appeals found that the killer’s claims that the statutes of limitations had run out in this case were not correct. The decision was based on Florida law and previous decisions in south Florida courts that involved similar situations.
The legal basis for the decision that the Florida injury attorney obtained in favor of the plaintiffs hinged on two points of Florida law.
1) Age dependent
Wrongful death claims must be made within three years of the demise of a person according to Florida. The man in this case was killed in August of 2009. The suit for wrongful death was filed in June of 2015.
The son was too young to be legally competent when his father was killed. The boy could not make a legal decision to file a wrongful death action.
The killer buried the dead man’s body. This action is considered to be fraud. The fraud occurred when the man attempted to prevent any action against him that would recover damages for the loss of a person’s income.
The three year time limit can be delayed indefinitely by fraud of this type. The major consideration is that the injured party or their agent exercise due diligence in discovering the fraud. One should note that law enforcement is not necessarily obliged to discover fraud of this type even if it involves murder.
The Florida State court of appeals found that the lower court should not have dismissed the case. The court allowed the case against the killer to proceed.
It is unfortunate and tragic that the woman and child had to wait eight years to even get close to receiving justice for the loss of their son and father.