Financial compensation produced by a lawsuit can never take the place of a loved one who has died as a result of another party’s negligence.
However, such compensation can, at the very least, provide a measure of justice to the victim’s survivors for the loss of companionship, affection and love that they will inevitably suffer as a result of the victim’s death. A lawsuit alleging Massachusetts wrongful death can arise from a number of different circumstances, ranging from Massachusetts medical malpractice, to Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents, to product liability and more. Another area of law that might give rise to a claim of wrongful death, is the law of Massachusetts premises liability. The law of premises liability governs the civil liability of owners of property, commercial or otherwise, when a lawful visitor to that property is injured or killed due to negligence of the property owner.
A very interesting Boston case involving a claim of wrongful death, is grounded in large measure on the principles of premises liability law. The case is the now-famous criminal case involving the “Craig’s List Killer,” where a woman who was renting a room in the Boston Marriott Copley Place Hotel for prostitution, was allegedly killed by Philip Markoff, who was accused of the killing. Mr. Markoff committed suicide while being held in jail awaiting his trial, and as a result was never convicted in the case. The victim was Julissa Brisman, a 25 year-old prostitute. Ms. Brisman’s mother, Carmen Guzman, recently filed the wrongful death suit in Suffolk Superior Court, naming the Boston Marriott Hotel as defendant.
In her suit, Ms. Guzman maintains that the entire Marriott Hotel chain was negligent in her daughter’s death. She alleges that the hotel chain failed to prevent prostitution at its locations, which allowed her daughter Julissa to book a room to offer sexual services in exchange for money, thus making her susceptible to an attack of the type that killed her. Ms. Guzman claims that the Marriott chain should have been on “high alert” for prostitution at its hotels, citing the fact that just four days prior to her daughter’s death, another prostitute was robbed and gagged at gunpoint, at a hotel adjacent to the Boston Marriott Copley Place. She also believes that the hotel should have known about the prostitution services her daughter offered on the night she was killed, as there was a steady stream of men coming and going from her hotel room. Ms. Guzman’s complaint states that Marriott’s negligence was “the proximate cause” of her daughter’s death.
As a Suffolk County, Massachusetts wrongful death attorney, I know all too well how these lawsuits play out in court. After a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit such as this one begins, the only thing the law can do is provide a judicial remedy — assuming that negligence can be established on the part of a defendant — for the family members left behind. Financial damages, while they can never bring back a loved one who has died, can compensate the victim’s survivors for the loss of companionship and society of the victim, the victim’s pain and suffering, medical expenses related to the victim’s death, and other economic damages that might be relevant.
As a Boston, Massachusetts negligent security lawyer, I do see one difficulty facing the plaintiff in this suit: Damages to victims who have suffered harm in premises liability cases are not usually awarded, unless it can be shown that the victim was lawfully on the premises at the time the injury occurred. In this case, the victim (the late Ms. Brisman,) was allegedly conducting an illegal activity on the premises (prostitution.) Therefore, Marriott’s attorneys (more accurately, the attorneys for its liability insurer,) will likely claim that since Ms. Brisman’s presence in the hotel was not lawful, the representative of her estate (her mother,) cannot recover. That is very likely why this case was filed as a wrongful death claim, and not framed as a premises liability suit.