How does the law define reckless conduct or wanton diregard for the safety of another? A death in Florida provides one answer. It may be a wrongful death caused by a mindless act well beyond a momentary act of carelessness.
How does the law define reckless conduct or wanton disregard for the safety of another? Maybe a recent tragic death in Florida provides one answer. The news story was headlined Pilot To Be Charged With Manslaughter After Skydiver Hit In Midair By Plane. Reading the story and then getting the rest of the story tells us that this may be a wrongful death caused by a mindless act well beyond a momentary act of carelessness.
The news story:
The Volusia County state attorney’s office plans to charge a pilot with manslaughter for the death of a skydiver in April, according to a Local 6 News report.
Albert “Gus” Wing III of Longwood was finishing his free fall when the plane he jumped from hit him. The skydiver’s legs were severed at the knees and he died shortly after landing. The pilot, William Buckman, will be charged with manslaughter and reckless operation of an aircraft, Local 6 News has learned
From the blog Flori-DUH! comes the probable rest of the story:
Here’s what happened – the dude jumped out of the airplane and the pilot swung around to buzz the jumper on the way down. I GUARANTEE the last words out of the pilot’s mouth before he killed the jumper were these:
“This is gonna to be so funny! I’m gonna scare the ****** out of this guy!”
A prosecutor who determines that a homicide warrants a charge of manslaughter has come to the conclusion that the misconduct is well beyond the standards of reasonable conduct that we expect in our society. The misconduct has to justify the label reckless and the defendant must have acted in wanton disregard of the safety of the victim.
If these facts and assumptions are correct the same misconduct would support a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the survirors of the skydiver and the award of punitive damages. In fact, in the civil caselaw the test for the award of punitive damages (intended to punish the wrongdoer) would be whether the misconduct would justify a conviction for manslaughter. This standard is often stated in the appellate decisions in Floirda.
It is rare in Florida that a trial judge permits a jury to award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages (intended to compensate the victim or survivors for actul losses they have sustained). Nevertheless, proper representation of victims and survivors requires an attorney to seriously consider seeking punitive damages where the facts cry out for punishment.