CHILD DEATH CONCEPTS

CHILD DEATH CONCEPTS

Death cases are the more difficult and challenging cases we handle as plaintiff lawyers. Child death cases are particularly difficult in communicating reasons for substantial damages. There is unlikely to be economic losses of substance and there is a lack of a concrete measure of damages for the jury. Here is a memo of some ideas about these cases which might prove helpful.

DEALING WITH THE NEGATIVE ATTITUDES

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Most jurors have negative attitudes about a parent suing for the death of a child. Some of these are set out below. I think it important to meet them head on in voir dire and again in argument.
For example: “Some people believe it is wrong for a parent to sue for death of a child because “money won’t bring them back” and that is true. But the purpose of this lawsuit is to acknowledge the great loss involved here through a just verdict. We no longer do that with “an eye for an eye” remedy. We do that in the only manner the law allows. To convert the value of what has been lost in dollars. To make an appraisal in justice to acknowledge the wrong and the loss.”

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Here are some of the common negative attitudes:

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1.MONEY WON’T BRING THEM BACK
2.IT WAS GOD’S WILL
3.SHOULDN’T MAKE MILLIONARES OVER DEATH OF CHILD
4.EVERYONE HAS HAD SOMEONE DIE AND THEY DIDN’T GET PAID
5.THEY HAVE OTHER CHILDREN
6.THEY CAN HAVE OTHER CHILDREN OR ADOPT
7.IT’S NOT LIKE THE CHILDREN WILL BE LIVING AT HOME FOREVER ANYWAY. THEY LEAVE HOME

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FAMILY DAMAGES

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We all know that death of a family member is not a singular event. It impacts each family

Member individually in a different way. The mother doesn’t suffer same way as the brother or sister. Each bears their pain and loss as individuals, but all suffer from the death of a child.

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Not only that, but the effects continue for the rest of the life of the survivors. James Foley’s poem Drop a Pebble in the Water says it very well:

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Drop a pebble in the water:
just a splash, and it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples

Circling on and on and on,

Spreading, spreading from the center,

flowing on out to the sea.

And there is no way of telling

where the end is going to be.

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DEATH ARGUMENT

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Here are some miscellaneous ideas about death of a child.

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1.We all know the phrase “a penny for your thoughts.” This child will always be in their thoughts

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2.Today we finally lay George to rest. Your verdict will be the eulogy at his funeral. The final comment on a life cut short. The great issue is: what value does this jury put on the life and death of one of its children?

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3.The elephant in the room: it is large and hard to get around but we get around it with “how are you?” And 1000 other forms of trivial chatter. We talk about everything except the elephant in the room. We all know it’s there. It is constantly on our minds. It is a very big elephant but we do not talk about the death of the child with the parents because it is so painful.

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4.The inscription Homer placed on the tombstone of his daughter: “the day she was born, I was born anew, on the day she died part of me died too.”

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5.Poem: The night has a thousand eyes and the day but one, yet the life of the bright world dies with the dying sun. The mind has a thousand eyes in the heart but one, yet the light of the whole world dies when love is done.”

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6.This is an opportunity to set priorities about the value of human life in a world in which we have lost all sense of values.

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7.It is not about someone getting rich over the death of another. It is not about sympathy. It is not about revenge. It is about the belief that there is a moral and legal obligation to do what is right in giving justice for wrongdoing. To reasonably compensate for each hour and experiences forever lost, calls for a substantial appraisal in dollars.

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8.Poem: “it broke our hearts to lose you, but you did not go alone; a part of us died with you the day God called you home. 1 million times we’ve needed you, a million times we cried; If tears alone could save you, you had would never have died.

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9.Some people put their money in real estate and invest in stocks but others invest in their children. Their sacrifices give their children the opportunities they did not have.

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10.It is the loss of great expectations.

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11.We express concepts experiences and feelings by our language and words we use. If you are the woman and your spouse dies you are a widow and we know what that means just by the word. If you are a man and your wife dies you are a widower. We know what that means just with the use of that one word. If you are a child and your parents die you are an orphan and we know what that means. But if you are a parent and your child dies there is no word that we have for such a terrible tragedy. It is so profoundly tragic we don’t even attempt to have a word for because we know the words can never convey the enormous loss parent’s face.

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12.Suppose you were handed a note from judge: – husband just killed in auto accident – what effect? Even though no hand inflicted physical pain.

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GENERAL DEATH IDEAS ON VALUE

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1.Someone wrongfully suffers the amputation of her leg or arm we have no trouble evaluating the loss at $10 million. The greatest loss you can possibly have is not losing limbs but rather losing the life of the child.

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2.The value of the loss depends upon how precious it was. The most precious possession anyone can have as their child.

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3.Every day for the rest of their life each of them will not go through a day, and hour or perhaps even a minute where they do not have a feeling of loss.

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4.Suppose there is a baby cradle that is a family heirloom and has been in the family for generations. The cost of material maybe $50. But if it is wrongfully destroyed, giving the cost of building a new cradle would not represent its actual value. The value is not measured in the materials but in the value of the possession.

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5.If there is a fire and an art museum so that the guards have to decide whether to save a $40 million painting or save the little baby we know what choice would be made.

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6.Genesis 22: “sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham” “here I am,” he replied. Then God said,” take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there is a board offering on one of the

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7.When King David learned of the death of his son Absalom he went to his room and wept: “all my son Absalom, my son. My son Absalom. If only I had died instead of you.”

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8.Military pilots are instructed to eject from hundred million dollars aircraft if there is a question of risk of life for the aircraft.

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9.A realistic test of the value of the child is when there is a kidnapping. The parents would spend everything they have in order to have the child back.

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10.From the essay “what is a boy?” Between the innocence of babyhood and the dignity of manhood we find a delightful creature called a boy. The boy is a magical creature – you can lock him out of your work shop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart. You could get him out of your study but you can’t get him out of your mind. When you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, he can mend them like new to magic words: “hi, dad!”

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11.Why does every parent worry about his or her child no matter how young or how old the child and the parent are? Why is the bond of love so tremendously strong between a parent and a child? Why is the death of a child the most grievous of all injuries that can happen to any parent? Why is there no prosthesis to mend a broken heart? Because it is so very precious.

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12.Why is the death of a child worth much more than a parent’s amputation of either an arm or a leg or even both arms and both legs? Why would a parent who is not able to swim jump into a pool to try to save their child? Why a parent is will use his or her body to shield and save a child? Is there any bond in life that is truly stronger than the parents love for his or her child?

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13.When a child is killed it has not only robbed each parent of the parent-child relationship but it often (as in this case) permanently and adversely changes the husband-wife relationship. The wife is no longer the same happy, warm and understanding companion to her husband and the husband has also changed. The future life of mom and dad has changed tremendously and all for the worst. There will never be grandchildren from their daughter. There will never be phone calls. There will never be visits. There will never be dinner parties. There will never be hugs and kisses. There will never be cards on birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and New Year’s, etc.

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14.Would it be worth at least $200,000 a year for mom to see her daughter again for one day a year? Would it be worth at least $200,000 for dad to be able to spend a day with his dead daughter just once a year? How little $200,000 is for one day a year for the next forty years to spend the day with the child.  

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15.Would an amputee pay $200,000 to rent his arm or leg back once a year for just a day even though he or she could buy an inexpensive prosthesis that would function well and still provide a good quality of life?

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16.Suppose you went to the doctor and were told you had an incurable illness with only weeks to live. What would you want to do in preparation of your death? You would want to prepare and to spend time with your loved ones. Every minute you had left to live would have great value to you. You would spend it with your family. So, what happens when death comes unannounced, in a sudden and unexpected way? After the shock, there is a mountain of unfinished matters that weren’t dealt with. The injustice of a wrongful death is what is left unfinished and the emotional chaos which doesn’t go away. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It’s a life sentence of pain, guilt and a sense of loss.

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17.death causes feelings of guilt, anger, worry about the future

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18.Drop by drop wears a hole in stone. Minute by minute, day by death, week by week, month by month, year by year the misery of loss of love wears down the survivor. Even the simplest headache robs day of its sun.

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19.A small hole can sink a big ship

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20.People continue to experience painful upsurges of grief for many years following the death. These periods of intense distress are often triggered by reminders of the deceased:

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(1)birthdays
(2)anniversaries, weddings
(3)family occasions
(4)graduations,
(5)baby showers
(6)holidays
(7)or parties

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21. children continue to live in their parent’s memory with a strong presence that overshadows their day to day existence

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22.People feel dead inside – just going through the motions. they try to put up a good front

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23.people are condemned to a diminished life, tormented by memory and hounded by helplessness

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24.people’s lives are turned upside down as they attempt to cope

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25.there is no “quick fix” for the impact

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26.participation in the judicial system may have a positive impact on their mental health

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27.time does not heal all wounds inflicted by death.
 
These are some general thoughts and ideas about these cases which might inspire more creative thought about handling them better for you clients.

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