77 Wrongful Death

Perry Frazing, as he liked to quip, was a one man show with one low-rent office and one part-time secretary. By cutting corners and fine words, he offered his services at a competitive rate. If a client wasted time asking tedious, irrelevant questions, Perry Frazing compensated by saying as little as possible in reply, to keep the appearance of mounting fees in check. He intended to keep the clientele he already had, not take on new people and new problems. To some of his fellow attorneys, his methods seemed counter-productive and inefficient as well as less than lucrative but Perry preferred playing squash at his club to listening to people moan on about their difficulties. He defended himself by reminding his peers that in England, a barrister, the lawyer who went to court, was actually called a brief; aptly named, he argued. He intended to uphold that time-honored tradition, even if it was not entirely his own.Chapter 77 Wrongful Death

Through years of unswerving service to this clientele, he had come to know some people pretty well but socialized with only a preferred few; Morrie Mangold wasn’t one of them. Morrie was cheap, had heard that this attorney dabbled in a lot of areas in the law. It had worked out between them; Perry Frazing could quickly summarize a lot of law in a short time, the kind of law that Morrie wanted to know.

“Can I sue them,” Morrie cut to the chase, “those shmucks who killed my nephew? I want to sue them.”

“Are there any grounds for a suit?” Perry re-worded the question.

“What law covers this? I’ve never heard of anybody drowning somebody in a condo pool before and I know a lot about condos.”

“It’s called a precedent.”

“How much do I have to prove about what happened in there? Who did what to him?”

“Is there any indication,” Perry re-phrased the question, “of a wrongful death?”

“I guess. This death didn’t happen by itself, did it?”

“Some basics. You are a condo developer. Anything that gets decided because of this will include all developers and all condo buildings,” Perry precisely added, ‘including you.”

“Not me. I’ll never put in a pool. Too much trouble.”

“It’ll include any common elements or amenities. There are more of those in upscale condos. I don’t need to restate them.”

“So when I try to get back at them I have to watch my own back. What else is new?” Morrie groused.

“Wrongful death grounds.” said Perry, overlooking this last remark. “Basically, it’s after a death caused by wrongdoing or negligence. Family can bring an action against a responsible individual, company, or entity. It’s usually spouses or children or parents that do, not uncles.”

“He didn’t have any of those any more – all dead – it’s just me, and his cousins.”

“Closer to the nub, then. You’re the immediate family. You’re his personal rep. We drew that up here. You also have to show you’ll have a monetary loss. That’s how the amount of pecuniary damages is awarded. It can include loss of support or services, and funeral expenses.”

“A loss? You bet I will. Spent ass pockets full of money for his school and training to be my right hand man.”

“That won’t count. It’s what you’ll lose because he’s not going to be working.”

“He was going to keep working for the family business, big time. All gone.”

“You’ll replace him and that person will bring in the money, instead?”

“Not for a long time, no. This needs personal coaching. I’ll lose the money I could be making if I’m bringing a new guy up to speed. What else do we need?”

“Proof. For wrongful death, the standard is preponderance of evidence, that is, more likely than not likely. It doesn’t need to be beyond a doubt, or clear and convincing. ”

“Is there some other way to sue them?”

“This is where the road divides.” Perry didn’t want to explain, only to say that the paths existed.

Perry Frazing, Morrie Mangold's attorney

Perry Frazing, Morrie Mangold’s attorney

“What road? I don’t get it.”

“At some point, we have to know what happened. How did he die and was anyone else, or any group, responsible?”

“Must be.”

“But there are no charges yet, correct? No individual’s been arrested?”

“Far as I know.”

“So we’re talking about suing the association, not a person. The rules change if it’s a person.”

“I want to get the whole snobby bunch of them.”

“Then you have to show that something they did, or didn’t do, partly or totally caused the death. You don’t have to show that it was intentional. It was their fault, even if they didn’t mean to do it.”

“Oh, they meant it all right.” Morrie’s jaw clenched. It was he who’d encouraged Rusty to get into the building. To be killed, just for a little commercial spying? But he wasn’t going to tell about that. He’d look for another loophole.

“To condense this then, there has to be a death caused by negligence and a survivor who can claim pecuniary damages because of it. You may, or may not, meet that standard. If there’s a case, there will be evidence to gather and witnesses to interview, though so far no eye witnesses, is that right?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“You could wait to see what the investigation turns up, if anything. If something like this happened in one of your buildings, you’d be here seeing me so this kind of suit wouldn’t be happening to you.”

“You bet I would. Shoes on the other feet, you mean.” Rusty’s shoes hadn’t been found. Anybody could be wearing them, now.

“Shoe on the other foot, yes.” Perry neatly halved the expression.

“You drew up all of our condo docs. How would you be working, if you were working for them?”

“They’ll be looking to see if they were negligent in any way as an entity, and trying to establish that your nephew was a trespasser.”

“But there was nothing to provide a reasonable rescue – that’s obvious – he’s dead.”

“They’ll be saying they wouldn’t have to rescue a trespasser. But if one of them let him in, then he was a guest.”

“And they have to rescue a guest?”

“They have to show that they can try, by meeting a reasonable standard.”

“So all we have to do is show, how did you say it, that it’s ‘more likely than not’ that somebody from there let him in?”

“Possibly. But you’re assuming that they won’t meet the standard.”

“What about what they did to him – like the bogus rescue, and weighing him down, and leaving him there – all that crap in the police photos?”

“Not sure. You think a bunch of them ganged up on him?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s review some facts about drowning. This might offend you but you need to know. A medical examiner is going to want to know if a victim died before, or after, going in. The post mortem or autopsy rules things out, what didn’t happen. Then, it’s a process of elimination.”

Morrie was bluntly spoken himself, but ‘elimination’? He expected his attorney to choose words better.