Family of Shooting Victim Sues Gunman for Wrongful Death

The parents of Michelle Fournier, a woman killed in a hair salon shooting that left eight people dead and one wounded, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the alleged shooter. The alleged gunman, Scott Dekraai, is Fournier’s ex-husband. The lawsuit asks the court to freeze Dekraai’s assets. According to the family’s attorney, their goal is to obtain compensation for Fournier and Dekraai’s eight year-old son, who is left effectively orphaned by the incident.

The family of another woman killed in the salon, Christy Wilson, has also filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against Dekraai. Her husband alleges in the suit that she “lingered for a ‘significant’ period of time before she died,” and seeks compensation for hospital and funeral costs and loss of “love, care, companionship.” The two lawsuits will likely proceed alongside, but independent of, the criminal prosecution.

Dekraai had taken Fournier to court to modify their child custody arrangement, hoping to get more time with their son. A court-appointed psychologist recommended that the court keep the existing custody plan in place. On October 12, 2011, Dekraai allegedly drove to the salon in Seal Beach, California where Fournier worked, armed with three handguns and wearing a bulletproof vest. According to police and Dekraai’s own statements to police, he shot eight people in the salon, killing seven, including Fournier and Wilson. He then shot and killed a man sitting in a car in the parking lot, telling police later that he thought the man might be a police officer reaching for a weapon.

Police arrested Dekraai shortly after he left the salon. He reportedly offered a full confession to investigators, admitting to all of the shootings and offering explanations for his actions. Prosecutors have charged Dekraai with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, one for each shooting victim. They have announced that they will seek the death penalty. His arraignment is scheduled for November 29.

There are several key differences between the criminal and civil ases. The claims brought by the families for Fournier and Wilson seek civil damages for wrongful death. The criminal case, brought by prosecutors who work for the state of California, seek to punish Dekraai in the criminal justice system. The desired outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit is always monetary damages, while a criminal prosecution seeks fines, imprisonment, or sometimes the death penalty.

The two cases also carry different burdens of proof. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard of proof, that Dekraai committed each of the charged offenses. The families of the victims must show by a preponderance of evidence that he caused the deaths of the victims, essentially requiring them to prove that their theory is the most likely. The lawyer for the Fournier family has stated that they do not intend to interfere with the police investigation. The outcome of the criminal trial may help determine how the wrongful death suits will proceed, although a wrongful death claim may still succeed even if the defendant gets an acquittal in a corresponding criminal case.

People injured due to the criminal actions of others have legal rights to compensation for their injuries. Contact the Washington, DC wrongful death lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

$21 Million Wrongful Death Suit for Murder of Inmate on Prison Bus Is Going to Trial, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 29, 2011
Kathy Wone Settles $20M Washington DC Wrongful Death Lawsuit with Three Men Linked to Her Husband’s Dupont Circle Murder, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 13, 2011
Defendant’s Shoes Included in Anne Arundel County Wrongful Death Settlement Over Deadly 2009 Beating of Crofton Teen, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 9, 2011
Photo credit: bettieminer from morguefile.com

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