In July 2011, Rebecca Zahau was found hanged at the Coronado vacation home of her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, by Jonah’s brother Adam. At the time of Ms. Zahau’s death, investigators from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department could not find any DNA evidence at the scene other than her own, and eventually concluded that she had committed suicide. Ms. Zahau’s family members refused to accept that she would take her own life, and have now filed suit for wrongful death against Adam Shacknai, Jonah Shacknai’s ex-wife, and the ex-wife’s twin sister.
When is wrongful death appropriate?
A claim for wrongful death is brought by the family members of a person who, but for their death, would have had the right to sue for personal injury. In some cases, a civil claim for wrongful death is brought by surviving relatives alongside a criminal charge for murder or manslaughter. If the death was caused by the negligence or wrongful act of a corporation, pursuing a wrongful death claim may be the only option available.
Statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim
Like other personal injury claims, wrongful death is subject to a statute of limitations. The family members of Ms. Zahau filed the lawsuit within a few days of the second anniversary of Ms. Zahau’s death. Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, in an action for death caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another person, you must file suit within two years of the death.