Widow Of Officer Killed In January 6th Riot Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The partner of an officer who died in the January 6th riot has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against two men who attacked him and Donald Trump for encouraging the situation that led to his death. As far as the allegations against the individual men go, those are quite strong. But can Donald Trump be implicated as a ringleader to a dangerous movement? If so, it could open up lawsuits against all individuals who inspire protest movements, regardless of how misguided or important those issues are.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the important issues that could occur if this suit moves forward.
Is Donald Trump responsible for this officer’s death?
There are theories of liability that hold that an individual can be held accountable for the conduct of those who are inspired by them. But Donald Trump never directly told anyone to bring mace or weapons, or storm the capitol. There is some indication that he did encourage it, but there is uncertainty as to how provable this is.
Ultimately, we don’t know how this lawsuit will play out. But Trump will be required to respond to the lawsuit and how he responds could shift opinion against him. Trump has a propensity for denigrating anyone who opposes him. In a case like this with a dead police officer, that tactic will not serve him well. If he plays that card right out of the gate, it could easily backfire.
It’s much more likely that Trump will claim that lawsuit is politically motivated and attempt to dismiss it on that basis. His lawyers will argue that there isn’t a theory of liability that can hold Trump individually accountable for the conduct of unhinged followers.
It could end up forcing discovery into the public record on what specifically Trump knew or believed as the attack was occurring and whether or not he encouraged the attack at pivotal times during the riot. Meanwhile, an inquiry into the situation labeled Trump as a “primary cause” of the attack.
Trump’s preferred tactic remains deny and accuse. Trump has officially stated that the protest was not an insurrection, but a situation that got tragically out of control.
The plaintiff is requesting $10 million in damages from each plaintiff. Two of the men have already been convicted of crimes related to the mace and the attack on the officer. The officer suffered a cardiac event after being struck by the pepper spray.
Some states still have a rule on the books that makes it very difficult for a firefighter, EMT, or police officer to file a lawsuit against a private citizen for injuries incurred in the line of duty. Florida is not among those states. First responders can file lawsuits against landlords, private citizens, and anyone else who contributes injury. In most cases, a homeowners’ insurance provider would be on the hook for any damages awarded in such an action.
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