The mother of Rebecca Sedwick, the 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself after jumping from the top of a cement plant tower, is filing a wrongful death claim against her late daughter's two alleged cyberbullies.
Though the two girls were just cleared of their aggravated stalking charges because of a lack of evidence, Tricia Norman's wrongful death lawsuit was expected to follow.
Norman hopes the lawsuit, as well as new cyberbullying legislation, will spark a change in how our nation -- and our schools -- handle online bullying.
2 Alleged Bullies Sued for Wrongful Death
Norman decided to file wrongful death lawsuits against the two girls who aggressively bullied her daughter online, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
In a wrongful death suit, immediate family members can get financial compensation when a person is killed due to someone else's negligence or misconduct. It's meant to help the grieving family deal with the current and future expenses of loss.
To bring a successful wrongful death suit, Norman must prove that Rebecca's death was caused by the girls' negligence, or with the intent to cause Rebecca harm.
But the girls' attorneys will likely argue that their clients can't be held responsible for Rebecca's death because their actions did not directly cause Rebecca to commit suicide.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, wrongful death lawsuits involving children often yield limited damage awards. This is because the parents' recovery is limited to their pecuniary loss, which is usually quite small.
But for Norman, prevailing in a wrongful death lawsuit would be a symbolic victory that could help evolve Florida's cyberbullying laws.
'Rebecca's Law' Proposed
After announcing her plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Norman also promised a "crusade" against bullying. That will include pursuing a new state law -- dubbed "Rebecca's Law" -- to criminalize cyberbullying, reports the Sentinel.
Earlier this year, Florida passed a new cyberbullying law. But the law, which went into effect weeks after Rebecca's suicide, includes no criminal penalty for abusers.
Under Norman's proposal, children who repeatedly bully others could be sent to a juvenile detention facility. She also intends to propose federal legislation that would require public schools to establish and follow anti-bullying procedures, reports Reuters.
In the meantime, "we intend to use the civil justice system to change behavior while we wait for our legislation to go through the proper channels," Norman's attorney said.
- Rebecca Sedwick suicide: Mother vows to 'crusade' for tougher bullying laws (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Audrie Pott's Family Filing Wrongful Death Suit (FindLaw's Injured)
- Are Parents Liable if Their Kid is a Bully? (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Carla Franklin Sues to Expose Cyberbully (FindLaw's Injured)