Civil Suit Can Bring Justice For Victims Left Short By Criminal Process

wrongful death lawsuit recently filed in Colorado demonstrates how a civil case may help to bring justice when the criminal process fails.

In 2013 Natalie Egleston, 48, was killed in a skiing accident in Colorado. According to her wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant, Virginia Chen, was “skiing wildly and out of control” resulting in a collision with Egleston who, at the time, had been stopped awaiting her skiing boyfriend. The collision caused tears of Egleston’s neck artery and brain stem, resulting in cardiac arrest. Her estate seeks more than $100,000 in damages for claims including negligence, battery, and wrongful death.

Chen’s attorney claims there was no collision, but instead, that Egleston’s death resulted from a fall after the parties’ skis became tangled. The sheriff’s report states that the only witness present was Egleston’s boyfriend, who did not see the impact, but saw Egleston suddenly flying through the air.

After a three-week investigation, the prosecutor chose not to charge Chen criminally because there was “insufficient evidence to prove a criminal case,” according to the Aspen Daily News. The wrongful death lawsuit followed in September 2014.

In cases when few witnesses are available or physical evidence is scarce, prosecutors may choose not to bring criminal charges because of the high burden required — the jury must find “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the crime occurred as alleged. When victims are left without criminal recourse they may find justice by filing a civil case, as in Ms. Egleston’s estate’s wrongful death suit. In a civil case the jury must find by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the event occurred as the plaintiff alleges, a much lower burden than in a criminal case.

Our RI personal injury lawyers can help determine if you have a civil claim when the criminal process fails to provide the justice you seek.