If a person is shot to death on a city street, can the next of kin sue the city for damages?

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If a person is shot to death on a city street, can the next of kin sue the city for damages?

Asked on June 28, 2013 under Personal Injury, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First, there would be no cause of action against the city unless a city employee--such as a police officer--did the shooting; the city is not responsible or liable for the actions of people not under its control, and it's also not responsible for deaths simply because they occur within the city.

Second, to have a viable lawsuit, there would have to be some fault, or wrong-doing, on the part of the city employee; for example, if a police officer did the shooting, he or she  would have had to have either shot that person for  the wrong reasons on purpose (e.g. because the officer was angry) or without any good reason (such as a police office shot an unarmed man who did not even appear to be armed and was not acting in any way threatening).

Third, some "next of kin" can sue--like a spouse, a parent, a child--but others can't--cousins can't generally sue for wrongful death.

To explore whether, in the circumstances of this shooting, there might be a viable or valid claim, consult with a personal injury attorney.


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