Worcester, Massachusetts Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settled At 11th Hour

Here’s a story of an interesting case involving a Massachusetts Wrongful Death claim. On December 9, 2000, the unthinkable happened to a young couple living in central Massachusetts.

Sherylann Miller, a 38 year-old married woman and the mother of a young girl, had been hired as a restaurant manager by a local KFC-Taco Bell franchise. The store site was still under construction, on Main Street in Clinton, and Ms. Miller was accepting job applications from prospective employees as the site was still being constructed on Dec. 9, 2000, the last day of her life. It was the last day of her life because a particularly pathetic excuse of a human being by the name of Quillie Merle Spray III, a 36-year-old tile setter from Oklahoma who had been hired by the restaurant’s general contractor to work in the restaurant at the time of the slaying, attacked Ms. Miller without any provocation, inflicting six fatal stab wounds to her head and neck. While this psychotic waste of space was later convicted of first-degree murder in Mrs. Miller’s death and sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole, Mrs. Miller is still dead, and this psychotic murderer clearly should never been hired by the General Contractor who hired him. The victim’s husband, Thomas G. Miller was left a widow, and their daughter left without a mother. While, thankfully, criminal justice was served in the conviction of this psychotic murderer, should these victims be left without any civil remedy here?

As a Massachusetts Wrongful death attorney, I can assure you the answer is No. Enter a civil lawsuit against the responsible parties, for “Wrongful Death.” Thomas Miller did just that, filing the civil suit in 2003 as administrator of the estate of his late wife, Sherylann Miller. Named as defendants in the suit were the now-murder convict, Quillie Merle Spray; his brother, Gary Spray, who was working with him at the time of the slaying; and Boss Contractors Inc. of New Hampshire, the general contractor for the restaurant construction.

The suit, which included claims for negligent and grossly negligent wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering, accused the defendants of negligently failing to protect Mrs. Miller from her killer. Her husband alleged in the lawsuit that Quillie Merle Spray III was a substance abuser with a criminal record and a propensity for violence, and that the civil defendants who had control over this restaurant construction could have and should have known this (a principal legal test of negligence in Massachusetts.)

In what is probably a sign of the increased resistance of insurance companies to settle civil tort claims nowadays that clearly call for pre-trial settlement, the defendants and their insurers would not settle this case before trial, and the case proceeded to trial in Worcester Superior Court. At the 11th hour, a settlement was reached this past Tuesday, while the jury was in its second day of deliberations. The trial was entering its fourth week and the jury’s deliberations came to a close without a verdict after the settlement was negotiated. The financial terms of the agreement are confidential.

If you’ll take a look at my website, under the “Wrongful Death” Section of our Practice Descriptions, you’ll see that a wrongful death suit is a particular kind of “tort”: A wrongful death suit differs from other Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits such as product liability, construction site accidents, car accidents, medical malpractice and premises liability/slip and fall cases, in that the actual victim (called the “decedent”) is not bringing the suit. Rather, it is usually a family member or a representative of the deceased victim’s estate. A wrongful death suit alleges that the victim’s death would not have occurred but for the actions or inactions of the civil defendants, and this type of suit seeks the recovery of monetary damages for the surviving family’s or the estate’s benefit as a result of the victim’s death.

Money can never replace the loss of a loved one. Once a tragedy like this strikes, the only thing the law can do is to provide a judicial remedy, assuming negligence can be established on the part of another party, for family members left behind. A wrongful death suit in Massachusetts allows a potential award of damages for the economic and non-economic harm done to the victim’s family. While expert testimony can usually estimate the loss of present and future income potential that a deceased victim of wrongful death would have earned for his or her family, as well as for medical expenses related to the victim’s death, “non-economic” damages compensate the victim’s family for the loss of companionship, love and affection that they will suffer as a result of the victim’s death.

In order to bring a Massachusetts Wrongful Death suit, the suit must be filed prior to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations, or the suit will be forever barred in the future. Hence, if you have lost a loved one due to what you suspect may be the negligence of another, it is extremely important that you speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the event which caused the victim’s death. We are very experienced in this area of litigation, and you are encouraged to contact us for a free, no obligation consultation.

The Law Offices of William D. Kickham And Associates represents surviving victims of Massachusetts Wrongful Death cases, and other personal injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. If you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, call us, and we can help you maximize your legal options, and possible financial recovery options, that you may have.