I think my brother killed our mother. She was living alone in the family home and was found murdered. Because of a history of trouble between our mother and my brother, both my sister and I think he killed her. Can we sue him?
Under Tennessee law, your brother could be sued for wrongful death even if he has not yet been charged, tried, or convicted of the crime of murder. Murder in criminal law would be “battery” under the civil law, and a civil law suit for battery can be filed even if the criminal charges have not been filed. Damages that can be sought for battery include compensatory damages and punitive damages.
In fact, under Tennessee law a person can be found innocent of murder in a criminal case and still be successfully sued for battery arising out of the same incident. Why? Because in a civil wrongful death case the person bringing the lawsuit must only prove the that the defendant killed the decedent by a preponderance of evidence (that is, more likely than not). In a criminal case the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant murdered the decedent. Thus, the criminal court jury could conclude that the State did not prove what it needed to send the defendant to prison but the civil court jury could conclude that more likely than not the defendant killed the decedent and award damages.
Any claim you and your sister want to bring for battery must be filed in court within one year from the date your mother first received the injuries that led to her death.
John Day represents personal injury victims and families of wrongful death victims. He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and, in fact, served as President of the organization. He is an elected member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. His book, "Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law," is used by judges and lawyers across Tennessee to further their understanding of personal injury and wrongful death law in Tennessee. In 2009, Best Lawyers named John "Best Personal Injury Lawyer" for Nashville; he was the first recipient of that award. Best Lawyers also named John as "Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nashville" for 2010. John does not charge for an initial consultation and accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here.