FAMILY WINS $4.5 MILLION WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT

The family of Jose Lucero, a Rosamond man, who they contend was beaten to death by four Kern County Sheriff’s deputies in 2010, was awarded a $4.5 million judgment in their civil lawsuit against the deputies, the sheriff’s department, and Kern County. The jury found that the defendants acted negligently, causing the death of Mr. Lucero and serious emotional distress to his parents, who witnessed the confrontation. Mr. Lucero’s official cause of death was cardiac arrest following police restraint in association with methamphetamine intoxication, the coroner’s office reported in March 2011.

On December 18, 2010, sheriff’s deputies went to Mr. Lucero’s home, because he had been repeatedly making calls to the 911 emergency center, saying that a friend in Lancaster was being assaulted and murdered. Mr. Lucero had mental health issues and was a recovering drug addict, with the coroner reporting methamphetamine discovered in Mr. Lucero’s system.

Originally, three deputies responded to the situation, with a fourth arriving later. The entire incident took approximately six minutes. It is estimated that Mr. Lucero was shocked with a Taser twenty-nine times. One of the deputies also used pepper spray in the closed environment of the home, causing the deputies to suffer the pepper spray’s symptoms, which made the situation worse. Mr. Lucero’s parents were repeatedly told to leave the home during the altercation, but kept returning to see what was happening. Unfortunately, the fact that Mr. Lucero’s parents kept returning meant they witnessed the deputies beating him to death.

The county’s attorney believed that the jury’s findings were excessive. He pointed out that Mr. Lucero had assaulted family members in the past and was allegedly mistreating them the night of the incident. In addition, he contended that the deputies’ use of force was justified because they saw a person who was a threat to the people who were in the house and were just trying to decide how to get that person into custody. The county’s attorney also questioned the cause of Mr. Lucero’s heart attack, contending that the exertion from resisting arrest, coupled with the methamphetamine, caused his heart rate to rise to a dangerous level. The county is currently looking over the case to decide if it wants to appeal, over concerns with the verdict and amount of damages.

A wrongful death action’s purpose is to compensate the survivor or survivors for the loss they sustained, which can result in both economic and noneconomic damages. Survivors can receive compensation for economic losses, like the lost wages the victim would have earned and funeral expenses. They are also entitled to recover for other losses, like the loss of companionship and affection. As a result, the recovery in a wrongful death action can be very large, like in this case. While no amount of money can possibly replace the loss of a loved one, it is important to make sure that those that caused the death of your loved one are held responsible. It is essential to meet with an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death cases, so that all of your rights are protected.

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