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Can Christopher Dorner's Victims Sue His Estate?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 19, 2013 8:38 AM

After a manhunt that lasted over a week, Christopher Dorner has now been confirmed dead, reports The New York Times.

Dorner, a former LAPD officer, is believed to have killed four people earlier this month. His killing spree was allegedly the product of a vendetta he had against the LAPD, according to a manifesto he posted online.

With Dorner now dead, there are many questions left unanswered. One critical legal question is whether the victims and their families can sue Dorner's estate for wrongful death.

It's a loaded question, seeing as how the defendant is also dead. Dorner's victims include the daughter of a former LAPD captain and her fiancé. Dorner also shot and killed a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy.

And let's not forget the victims who survived. Dorner took a couple hostage while he was hiding from authorities. The couple likely suffered emotional injuries, if not physical ones as well.

In order for any of Dorner's victims to sue, they'll likely have to name Dorner's estate as a defendant in a potential lawsuit. There is little known about his net worth, but at the time of his death, Dorner is believed to have been living with his mother. He had no children, and his wife had filed for divorce in 2007, according to The Press-Enterprise.

In general, a lawsuit can be brought against a dead person's estate, if the person's actions caused injury or death to another. In some cases, even a dead person's parents can be sued; for example, after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, victims sued the killers' parents for alleged negligence, ABC News reports. But in Dorner's case, there's little evidence that Dorner's mother played any role in his actions.

Another important question: If Dorner didn't leave much behind, will plaintiffs gain anything by filing a lawsuit? That's something a wrongful death attorney can help to figure out.

Victims of other shootings have also tried to sue gun dealers, gun manufacturers, and even property owners where shootings took place, seeking some sort of compensation. Some of these lawsuits have resulted in settlements, while other claims have been tossed out in court.

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