The family of a woman who died in September following a plane crash at Santa Monica Airport has filed a wrongful death claim against the deceased pilot’s estate. The woman, 53-year-old Kyla Dupont, died from injuries following a plane crash that collided into a hangar, and burst into flames. All passengers inside the twin-engine Cessna died, including Ms. Dupont, pilot Mark Benjamin, Mr. Benjamin’s son, and his son’s girlfriend.
Survivors of an injured party seeking redress from the survivors of an allegedly responsible party have standing in court as the representatives of the decedents’ respective estates. One way to think of this procedure is to ask whether the plaintiff would have been able to sue on her own behalf had she not perished from her injuries. If so, then the representatives of her estate will be able to sue for wrongful death.
The claim of wrongful death in California is defined as “a death caused by the wrongful act of another, either accidentally or intentionally.” Note that wrongful death does not assign a criminal element. This is a lawsuit brought by individuals, not the state, against a criminal defendant for breaking the law.
Thus, a wrongful death claim can be filed in conjunction with any criminal charges the state chooses to pursue. The parties in a wrongful death claim seek compensation–known as damages–for the loss of emotional and physical companionship suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligent or intentional acts. In addition, the estate of the deceased sues for the loss of future income to which the decedent would have been entitled had she survived.
In the case of Estate of Dupont vs. Estate of Benjamin, the outcome will depend on whether evidence can support the assertion that Mr. Benjamin was negligent in handling, maintaining, and landing the aircraft.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to establish what types of evidence demonstrate acts of negligence or intention resulting in the death of a loved one.