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Florida parents settle wrongful death suit ahead of murder trial

It’s a case that has evoked comparisons to the Trayvon Martin killing by many, including MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. A man is accused of shooting a 17-year-old Florida high school student to death in November of 2012 during a dispute over the volume of the music being played in the vehicle in which the young man was a passenger. The 47-year-old defendant, whose murder trial is set to begin next month, says he fired in self-defense. He claims he saw a shotgun “protruding” from the vehicle. However, police found no gun at the scene, a Jacksonville area gas station where the two vehicles had stopped.

The young man’s parents have now settled their wrongful death suit against the man charged with the murder of their son. According to their lawyer, they were surprised that the defendant accepted the settlement offer, but the lawyer will not disclose the dollar amount, saying that “the amount doesn’t matter. It’s symbolic.” The parents are not speaking publicly about the settlement because they say they don’t want to taint the pool of prospective jurors for the murder trial.

At the end of the year, the parents of two of the other passengers in the vehicle with the victim dismissed their suits but received settlements. Whether anyone ever sees a dollar of the settlement money remains to be seen. The defendant’s insurance company is arguing in court that it should not be responsible for paying the damages, and the defendant has claimed that he has no money.

As we have seen, sometimes families wait until after a criminal case has run its course before pursuing a wrongful death suit, while others take civil action before the criminal case goes to court. Some criminal cases take longer to go to trial than others. In a case that may be watched on a national level and perhaps worldwide, both sides are likely proceeding carefully. In the meantime, however, families have every right to proceed with holding a defendant civilly responsible.

Source: St. Augustine Record, “Jordan Davis’ parents settle wrongful death suit with Michael Dunn” Andrew Pantazi, Jan. 05, 2014

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