In a wrongful death suit, one must show that an innocent victim died because of the fault of another person. The survivors of the deceased victim may be able to bring a civil claim for money damages against the accused perpetrator if there is a causal link between the faulty actions of the perpetrator and the death of the victim. The survivors seek compensation for damages, including pain and suffering, lost wages of the deceased victim, and funeral expenses, among other things.
On June 3, 2009, Faith Mascolino, 45, was killed outside Tucson, Arizona when a car crashed into the Highway Patrol officer’s car where she was being held in custody. According to TribTown.com, she had recently been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. When a conservator for her surviving minor children attempted to file a wrongful death suit following the accident, the state argued that they were immune from injury suits involving drunken or reckless drivers. However, the victim was not the cause of the accident, although she had been driving drunk before her arrest.
Therefore, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot claim immunity in this case. The Court held that the immunity laws need to be interpreted narrowly, and so they can only apply when the injuries are caused by a drunk driver who was operating a motor vehicle at the time of the accident. The Court found that this narrow interpretation does not betray the legislative intent in granting the state qualified immunity.
The victim here was not operating a motor vehicle, but rather sitting in one. Therefore, her family can file the wrongful death suit. The family is also suing the driver who crashed into the police car, Robert Gallivan, of Tucson, Arizona.