WILL CASEY ANTHONY FACE A WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT?
As most know, Florida mom Casey Anthony recently escaped a murder conviction in the death of her young daughter, Caylee. Is that the end of the legal road for her? Many have asked the question whether she, like O. J. Simpson, will face a civil wrongful death suit. Probably not.
First, let’s understand why it is even possible that a person who was found not guilty in a criminal trial could face the same charges in a civil case. The reason is a difference in the burden of proof. A criminal case requires that the prosecution prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt” whereas in a civil case you only have to prove liability “by a preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance means that the evidence must weigh just ever so slightly against Casey Anthony. Therefore, although the evidence may not have been strong enough to prove that she was guilty of a crime, it might be enough to prove a civil case against her.
O.K., so what are the chances that she will face a civil wrongful death lawsuit? They are certainly less than in the O. J. for one clear reason: There is probably nobody who will file the wrongful death lawsuit. In most states, wrongful death suits can only be brought by the spouse, parent or maybe grandparents of the dead person. In the O. J. case, it was the parents of Nicole Brown who sued Simpson. Here, it is far less likely that Caylee Anthony’s grandparents, Cindy and George Anthony, would file a civil suit because their own conduct was a focal point in the criminal case, and their filing a wrongful death suit would force them to re-live all of the angst and notoriety that they are trying so hart to avoid. That was completely different in the Simpson case where the Brown parents had no such “baggage.”
What about the biological father of the child or the paternal grandparents? In theory that would be possible, but there has been virtually no mention of the father throughout the life of this heavily publicized case, and so one has to assume that they are completely out of the picture.
There is one other distinction with the Simpson case. Because he was a celebrity, O. J. was a man who had some measure of wealth, even after spending loads of money on his team of defense lawyers. As we explain elsewhere on our site, a wrongful death suit can lead to a recovery of money for different types of damages, but Casey Anthony, unlike O. J., has virtually no money that anyone could collect even if they were able to win a civil suit. The prospect of getting no money would probably not be enough standing alone to prevent a civil claim if there was a logical family member to bring such a suit, but it is another difference from the Simpson case worth noting.
In the end, it is highly unlikely that we will ever see the Caylee Anthony case re-tried in a civil courtroom.