How Can You Win a Criminal Case But Lose a Civil Case?

A cable network recently launched a popular television series about the case which captured America’s attention in the 90s. That case involved a renowned pro-football player, commentator, and actor accused of murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Nearly everyone can remember the stories that sprung out the investigation and trial, the white Ford Bronco, and the verdict. The case created the stories of the decade.

Eventually, the man accused of murder was acquitted by the jury at trial. On national tv, the judge read the verdict of not guilty, and that started what seems like a cottage industry of analyzing and commenting on whether it was correct, what the prosecution should have done differently, and what the evidence in the case really meant. But just when the famous ex-football player thought he was out of the woods, he was successfully sued by his ex-wife’s family for wrongful death. Unlike murder, wrongful death is a legal action brought by one citizen against another.

Different Levels of Proof

The civil case that followed the criminal case did not receive the national attention and commentary that the criminal trial did. But it did have different results. After a grueling process, hearings, and a trial, the jury returned a verdict of liable. Meaning, the ex-football player had to pay the victim’s family over 30 million for wrongfully causing her death. How could that be when he was just acquitted for killing her?

The answer to this question lies in the burden of proof. In the criminal case, the prosecution accused the man of killing his ex-wife, but had to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. That means they had to show that he was guilty, and resolve any reasonable doubts that it could have been someone else, or that he was simply not involved. Of course, we can all recall moments from the criminal trial about the bloody glove, conflicting testimonies, and other moments, and all of those combined to create reasonable doubt with the jurors in that case.

The civil trial, however, was a different matter altogether. Unlike a criminal case, a civil suit for wrongful death requires the person bringing the case to prove their claims to a more likely than not standard. This equates to slightly more than 50% likely that something happened the way the claims states. Beyond a reasonable doubt is more like 80 or 90%, if not higher. In the civil case, the evidence mounted to more than 50% likely that he killed his ex-wife, and so the jury found that he was liable for her death.

This certainly was a confusing result, but at the same time it makes perfect sense. Because the burdens of proof are different, it is not difficult to have two different results when one case is criminal and the other civil.

Panama City Area Accident and Attorney

A civil suit following a criminal case can involve negligence, a car accident, medical malpractice, faulty product use, or numerous other causes. A victim will barely be able to cope with what just happened, but at the same time will be forced to figure out how to continue life going forward. When this happens, it takes a special kind of attorney, like The Pittman Firm, to help survivors receive the compensation they deserve, and to send the offending party the right message. If you or someone you know is the victim of wrongful death, contact us.


See related blog posts: Federal Government Issues Warning for Hoverboard Users; Why Contingency Fees Benefit You.
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