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Question
Hi,

I watched an La Law episode in which a black family made a civil suit for damages against the parents of a white teenager who had killed their son. The idea was that the parents, while they had not incited the murder and had had no specific foreknowledge of any murder intentions, that they could have done something but didn't. The episode had the black family winning 150,000 dollars in damages. I thought this was banned in international law and only practised in fascist or communist countries where relatives of political prisoners were routinely arrested as well. Have there ever been cases in democratic countries like the US where the parents of a perpetrator were successfully sued for damages?
Thanks.

Answer
Geoff,

First and foremost remember that all of U.S. television is created not such much for accuracy than for sensationalism.  Therefore the margin for error can sometimes be very great.  There have been lawsuits in the past that mirror the one you refer to.  Here in U.S. anyone can file a civil suit against another party.  That must have been the plot in the LA Law episode you refer to.  Many lawsuits are dismissed initially for being groundless or frivolous.  A good example of a successful criminal/civil lawsuit would be the O.J. Simpson case.  Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson was a former player in the National Football League.  He was also a sports commentator and actor.  In 1994 Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ronald Goldman.  A jury found Simpson not guilty at his criminal trial.  The parents of Ronald Goldman, however, filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Simpson which was successful in which Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages.  There have been similar cases in the U.S. over the years that follow this criminal/civil trial pattern.

Jeff  

Criminal Law

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Jeffrey Hauck

Expertise

I would welcome the opportunity to answer questions relating to or related to the field of criminal law.

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Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

Education/Credentials
Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree.

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