TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wrongful Death Damages Calculations

A recent Chicago trial over the admittedly wrongful shooting of a young man by the Chicago police, frames damages discussions well.  The case involved no issue of liability -- the city acknowledged that the shooting was unjustified once a security camera tape undermined its original theory and the officer admitted he did not fear for his safety -- and focused solely on the amount of damages:

In her closing argument, city attorney Patricia Kendall urged jurors to not view their verdict as a measure of how much Pamela Pleasance loved her son.

Under the law, the key issue was how much Michael Pleasance would have contributed to the family if he lived, Kendall argued.

Pleasance had a learning disability, both sides agreed. He had never held a job for more than a few months and spent time in prison on a drug conviction.

"Emotion is not supposed to be part of the decision-making process here," Kendall said. "Do your duty as fair and impartial jurors."

But Pleasance's lawyers bristled at the suggestion that the family should receive a lower jury award because of Pleasance's problems.

"They want you to think that this was just some worthless South Side kid whose life isn't worth as much as the rest of us," Schwartz said. "That is a path we must never travel."

The jury ultimately awarded $12.5 million and, in interviews, said that it focused on love and companionship.


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