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'NCIS' Wrongful Death Lawsuit Costs CBS $10.4M in Damages

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 01, 2014 10:13 AM

CBS will have to shell out $10.4 million in damages to the family of a security guard who was killed on the set of "NCIS" in 2011.

Julio Villamariona, 52, was the subject of a wrongful death suit against CBS after he was struck and killed by a van carrying "NCIS" crewmembers. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the driver of the van had "a medical emergency" before losing control and plowing into Villamariona -- a crash which led to his death.

How was it that CBS was found liable for Villamariona's death?

Jury Determined CBS Was at Fault

A jury determined on Tuesday that CBS should be held liable for Villamariona's death, partly because of the relationship between CBS and the van's driver. Employers are often held legally responsible for the negligence or recklessness of their employees, as long as the injuries were incurred during the scope of employment.

In other words, CBS was likely to be held responsible for the driver's actions assuming he was an employee and doing something related to his hired duty (e.g., driving a van). TMZ reports that the 60-year-old driver suffered "some kind of medical emergency behind the wheel" before fatally striking the security guard with the vehicle.

Even if the driver wasn't negligent -- medical emergencies are often out of one's control -- CBS could have been negligent if it allowed someone with a potentially dangerous condition to drive for the company. According to TMZ, the jury heard that CBS admitted to the driver having a medical condition "it should have known about," so it may not have been difficult to find the network negligent.

Why $10.4 Million?

It isn't uncommon for plaintiffs to seek multimillion-dollar sums in wrongful death cases against wealthy or corporate defendants. It isn't only because these parties have deep pockets, but because the person who was killed was often a pillar of financial and emotional support. For Villamariona's survivors (his widow and their three children), a jury likely determined that Julio's loss would greatly impact their lives, both emotionally and financially.

It's possible that an expert witness could have even been called to testify just how much the deceased father was "worth" to his family. Calculations like these are difficult and may seem almost perverse, but CBS' payment may provide Villamariona's family with some closure.

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