6 of the Most Controversial Wrongful Death Cases in History

Categories: Wrongful Death

wrongful death

Wrongful deaths are tragedies that often could have been prevented.

Whether it was an act of negligence, recklessness, or purposeful actions, controversy tends to surround these cases.

Six wrongful death cases in history were the center of attention for media outlets because of not only how the death occurred, but also because of the high-value settlements and the victims involved in the incidents.

What Were the Six Most Controversial Death Cases in the US?

Some of these cases you might have heard on the news, while others found their way into entertainment magazines. Regardless, these are cases that set the tone for wrongful death claims in the future.


The Death of a Stuntman

John Bernecker, a stuntman for The Walking Dead, died at the young age of 33 in 2017. He fell over 20 feet to his death when he missed a landing pad below by only a few inches.

Bernecker was not new to the industry. Instead, he had over 90 IMDb credits, worked on Marvel movies, and was known for his amazing performances.

In January 2018, his mother filed a lawsuit against AMC for her son’s death, alleging that his death would have been prevented had the movie studio put safety before profits.

The studio, to this day, denies that it was the case.

The Tobacco Big Verdict

One tobacco company, RJ Reynold Tobacco, was ordered to pay an astounding $23.6 billion to one woman whose husband died of lung cancer. It was the largest verdict ever seen for a single plaintiff in Florida. As you can suspect, the amount was appealed and canceled by the appeals court for being unreasonably unfair. Instead, the settlement was reduced to $16.9 million.

Jim Carrey’s Girlfriend’s Husband Sues for Her Death

Jim Carrey’s tremulous relationship with a makeup artist, Cathriona White, ended in tragedy after her overdose in 2015.

At the time of her death, she was still married to Mark Burton (whom she married in 2013 during a break from her relationship with Jim Carrey).

Mark Burton then sued the celebrity, Jim Carrey, for his wife’s wrongful death; accusing Carrey of influencing White’s life negatively, introducing her to prostitutes and illegal drugs, and contributing to her overdose.

The case never made it to trial, because Carrey’s lawyers used White’s medical records to show her history of falsifying medical records.

Woman’s Death from a Radio Show Competition

Everyone wants to win the latest technology offered by those radio show giveaways, and Jennifer Strange of California was no different.

The contest offered by KDND-FM required entrants to drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes for 90 minutes.

Strange was later found dead in her home after participating in the competition. Upon autopsy, it was found that she died of water intoxication – a condition that lowers electrolytes to dangerous levels when too much water is drunk.

Her family sued the radio and their parent company for the contest and received $16.5 million in damages.

Today, radio stations around the country no longer haphazardly come up with contests. Instead, they use caution and avoid anything that could result in a health hazard.

Woman Sues for Watching Her Family Die

A 13-year-old girl was subjected to unfathomable tragedy when she witnessed her family burn to death in a crash in California.

The trucking company that caused the accident and mangled the girl’s family’s SUV eventually settled, but their case was not without hurdles. The original verdict was $8.75 million, which was given to the girl’s older brother who had survived with her. The boy committed suicide on his mother’s birthday just before trial, and the money was then given to the girl in a trust until she turned 18.

Unfortunately, the court overturned the verdict and vacated the award for being excessive. A few months later, the young girl filed her suit again but the amount of settlement was kept undisclosed.

The Death of Elisa Lam

Young Elisa Lam was visiting the US from Canada when she was found inside a water tank on top of her hotel. Even after an autopsy, no one could determine why the woman died or what motivated her to get into the tank. Some say that she was hiding in the tank from someone pursuing her, while others speculate she was murdered and her body left there.

Regardless. Her parents filed a suit against the hotel for failing to inspect their equipment and not preventing someone from entering these water tanks. Unfortunately, it was unknown how the woman got into the water tank in the first place. Therefore, the court dismissed the case because no liability could be assigned.

To this day, her death is still a mystery.

Not All Wrongful Death Cases Are High Profile, but All Are Equally Tragic

While your loved one’s death might not spark controversy in pop culture or the media, it doesn’t mean that your loved one doesn’t deserve justice. After a wrongful death, you have the right to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

Speak with an attorney today from Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner now to explore your options. Schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation at 206-488-1462 or request more information online.

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Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.