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Wrongful death suit against polar plunge event proceeds

The death of a loved one can be unbearable, particularly if it possible that the victim's life might have been saved. When this happens, a wrongful death suit may provide the victim's family with compensation for their loss.

Recently, a lawsuit filed by the parents of a 35-year-old New Jersey woman who fell of a pier into the Atlantic Ocean after a polar plunge event on the Jersey shore has been allowed to proceed by a federal judge. The woman had been consuming alcohol after the 2009 polar bear plunge in Sea Isle City, New Jersey. She allegedly fell off the pier into the frigid ocean, and was found by a local fisherman hours later.

The wrongful death suit alleges negligence by the city, police and emergency officials. The police who found her body determined that she had died, due to her color and lack of breathing. As a result, the paramedics who arrived were unable to administer emergency care, which the lawsuit argues may have been able to save her life. The parents contend that she was suffering from severe hypothermia, and that the police violated New Jersey law in declaring her dead before administering an electrocardiogram.

Wrongful death lawsuits such as this one are filed in cases where one actor breaches a duty of care towards a person that results in that person's death. They are brought by a representative of the deceased, such as a personal attorney or a family member, and they ask for punitive monetary damages for the plaintiffs to account for the defendant's negligent conduct. In general, when a city employee acts negligently the city may be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Under this doctrine, an employer is liable for the actions of an employee if they occur during the scope of the employment.

Anyone who has lost a loved one or a family member to negligence is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit and recover monetary damages for the loss. The damages help hold the defendant accountable and give the family a measure of relief from the sorrow of their loss.

Source:, "Wrongful Death suit against Seal Isle City in polar bear event allowed to go forward," Stephen Stirling, Oct. 15, 2013.

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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