June 1, 2012

This case caught our attention for a number of reasons. First, the victim — a 35-year-old single mother — died 31 years ago. Second, criminal charges were filed 25 years after the victim’s death. And, especially for our purposes here, the family filed a wrongful death action against the victim’s boyfriend just last year.

It’s not unheard of for criminal charges and a civil action to be filed against the same person with regard to the same incident. O.J. Simpson, for example, was acquitted of Ronald Goldman’s murder, but Goldman’s family won a sizeable civil judgment against the ex-football player.

But don’t think that wrongful death actions are limited to suspected murders. In Oregon, for example, a victim’s family may file such a claim if they believe the defendant’s wrongful act or omission caused the victim’s death. The family member could have died in an accident caused by a reckless driver or after surgery performed by an inexperienced or unskilled doctor. It must only be a wrongful act or omission.

This case looked fairly simple to the family at first, but it wasn’t. In fact, it still isn’t.

The judge hearing the wrongful death case entered a default judgment when the defendant failed to respond to the summons and complaint and failed to appear at a hearing. The defendant now claims he heard through a friend that he had been ordered to pay $6 million to the children, and that he had not known of the lawsuit until after the default judgment had been entered.

We’ll finish this up in our next post.

Source: Pioneer Press, “Barbara Winn case: Foster had to be aware of suit, lawyer argues,” Richard Chin, May 30, 2012

Categories: Blog