Family Sues Staples Center for Wrongful Death After Fatal Skybox Fall

Negligence comes in many forms, from driver inattention that leads to a motor vehicle accident to defective product designs that cause catastrophic injuries. Premises liability is an important area of personal injury law that allows injury victims to hold property owners and other parties accountable for allowing unsafe conditions that have harmed guests.

The family of a two-year-old who fell from a Staples Center skybox during an L.A. Lakers game last November has filed a wrongful death claim. Lucas Tang suffered severe head injuries after falling as far as 50 feet from a third-level luxury suite during the November basketball game between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. The boy died several hours later at a nearby hospital.

In addition to damages for the harm caused by the tragic fall, the family is seeking basic safety improvements via an injunction to require Anschutz Entertainment Group and L.A. Arena Co. to install higher barriers to prevent future tragic deaths and severe injuries. When building codes and common sense fail to protect visitors, a civil lawsuit may be a party’s only option for seeking justice and protecting others.

California Wrongful Death Lawsuits: Who Can Sue and Who Must Pay

If the wrongful death lawsuit against Staples Arena goes to trial, the outcome will likely turn on whether the owner and manager of the property were negligent by providing a mere 26-inch-high barrier in a place where a child was allowed to watch the game.

Under California law, the following persons may file a cause of action for a death caused by neglect or wrongful acts:

  • The accident victim’s surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, children or parents, or anyone who would be an heir of the decedent in the absence of a will under California’s intestacy statute
  • The decedent’s “putative spouse” and that person’s children, meaning the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who believed in good faith that the marriage was valid
  • Any minor who resided in the decedent’s household for the 180 days previous to the death who received one-half or more of his or her support from the decedent

A family that loses a major breadwinner to a fatal accident may face serious financial issues without that person’s contributions. The damages awarded after a death caused by another person depend on the subtle difference between wrongful death and survivorship actions.

If the decedent survived the incident for a long enough period of time to incur economic damage (i.e., property damage or medical expenses for resuscitative treatment), then a “survivorship” action may exist for recovery of those damages as well as punitive damages. In California, the living plaintiff in a “wrongful death” action can pursue damages for his or her own pecuniary losses, including financial support, services, training and advice from the decedent, as well as the value of lost companionship. These two types of claims are frequently tried as part of the same case.

A grieving family may only consider the most obvious responsible parties, but a California personal injury attorney can assess the circumstances for other indications of liability. For instance, a close review of the evidence after a fatal car crash may suggest that a tire defect, flawed roadway design or other defect played a significant role in the accident.

Contemplating the value of a lost child’s life can be a particularly painful necessity for parents who want to prevent similar tragedies from devastating other families. A wrongful death attorney will explain the legal process and work closely with economic experts to estimate the value of an avoidable and heartbreaking loss.

Wrongful Death Litigation: Crucial Justice, Legal Complexities

Family members who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a motorcycle accident, truck accident, bicycle accident or any other event that results in fatal harm have a limited time to pursue survivorship and wrongful death actions. In addition to these statutory limits, it is always a good idea to consult with a California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that evidence such as witness accounts can be secured.

Experienced legal counsel can help clients move from the grief stage to a proactive search for answers and accountability. By assembling a strong legal strategy and presenting a solid case for compensation, wrongful death plaintiffs can often achieve a pre-trial settlement with responsible parties and avoid the long journey of litigation.


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