In a wrongful death lawsuit, the death of the individual must be caused by the negligence or tortious act of another. For cases of death due to the crime committed by third parties, those who have a special relationship with the victim may be liable under certain circumstances.


Businesses, for example, have a duty to protect their customers or any person within their premises, from the criminal acts of third parties. Such duty may depend on the situation, but at the very least, it must undertake reasonable and minimally burdensome measures to assist customers and invitees who face danger from imminent or ongoing criminal conduct occurring on the premises or in the presence of the business owner/manager or its employees—e.g., to call police when witnessing an assault (unless doing so might increase the danger or lead to reprisals).

Failure of the business to act to protect, or to report a criminal act against persons inside their premises may make them liable for negligence; and if it caused the death of the victim, depending on an array of circumstances, the business may also be liable for wrongful death claims from the family of the victim. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP § 377.60) cites specific persons who may have rights to assert a wrongful death cause of action.

There are a lot of elements to consider and numerous possibilities depending on the circumstances surrounding each case, that’s why it is advisable to work with a lawyer who is an expert in personal injury cases for guidance in wrongful death claims.

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