Wrongful Death Due to Assault in North Carolina

recordIn a recent North Carolina wrongful death case, the 23-year-old decedent was punched in the face by a 25-year-old assailant and taken to two hospitals. In 2010, he died from his injuries. The decedent’s brother sued the defendant.

The two men had gone to a club in September. They were good friends. The defendant got to the club at around 10 pm and called the decedent to tell him so. The defendant planned to talk to the decedent about something that happened months earlier when the defendant’s sister and the decedent had both gone to the same party. The sister had told the defendant that the decedent had made unwanted sexual advances toward her at that party. The defendant didn’t know if this was true.

The decedent got to the club at around 11 with his brother, the plaintiff, as well as his sister, two friends, and the son of one of the friends. The son testified he heard the phone conversation between the decedent and the defendant. While they were on the way to the club, the decedent talked to another man on the phone, which may have been the defendant.

After parking, the friend’s son saw the defendant outside the club, and he motioned them over. The plaintiff didn’t know the defendant at the time, and the defendant didn’t mention seeing the decedent outside the club.

The decedent went into the club first, and after the plaintiff went in, he noticed there was a fight. He was told the decedent was knocked out. At trial, the defendant stipulated he’d hit the decedent with a closed fist, and this was why the decedent fell and hit his head on the ground. The defendant also testified he went up to the decedent to shake his hand and talk about his sister’s allegations, but the decedent smirked at him. This was why the defendant hit him. He said it was only the decedent’s facial expression rather than what his sister had told him that made him hit the decedent. Although he’d wanted to inflict an injury, he felt remorse by the time of trial. He said he hit the decedent once.

The son testified that the defendant was on top of the decedent in the club, and bouncers had to take him off. The defendant was asked to leave, and he went outside. The son followed and told him he couldn’t leave. The defendant pulled a box cutter on him, and when the bouncers tried to calm him down, he said he would kill all of them. The defendant denied this.

The plaintiff was a former police officer and EMS tech, and he checked to see if his brother was bleeding. The floor was concrete. The back of the decedent’s head was bleeding, as were his ears. Police officers who arrived at the scene would later testify the decedent was conscious but unresponsive.

The plaintiff tried to block the defendant from leaving the parking lot. The defendant took a knife out of his console, got out of his car, and showed the people the blade. He got in his girlfriend’s car, and they drove off, but the plaintiff followed.

The decedent was taken to the ER, and since he needed a higher degree of care, he had to be moved to another hospital. He stayed at the hospital for eight days, and he talked differently than he had before. Eventually, he was declared brain dead and was removed from life support. The decedent was his mother’s youngest child and had a close relationship to her. Long after his death, the mother suffered from losing him.

After presenting evidence in the wrongful death case, the plaintiff asked for a directed verdict, which was granted. The jury awarded the plaintiff $3,409,612.00 for his brother’s death. No punitive damages were awarded. The defendant argued the award was excessive and appealed.

On appeal, he argued that the plaintiff’s physician witness should not have been allowed to testify under the Daubert standards. However, at trial, the defendant didn’t object that an incorrect standard was applied, and he didn’t try to argue that the testimony didn’t meet the requirements. He couldn’t make this argument for the first time on appeal.

The defendant also argued that the trial court had made a mistake in not conducting a voir dire. The trial court left it to the defendant to decide if he wanted a voir dire of the doctor, and the defendant chose not to do so.

The defendant also argued that the lower court should have allowed him a new trial and that the verdict was excessive. The appellate court explained that the medical bills were $72,503.42, and the funeral expenses were $8,882.88. The noneconomic losses of the family and the decedent’s pain and suffering were given a value of $3,328,225.70. The appellate court found that the evidence presented about the relationship between the decedent and his mother supported this award. For these and other reasons, the appellate court found no error.

If you lost your loved one due to a wrongful death in North Carolina, the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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