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Judge grants summary judgment in Kansas wrongful death case

A defendant or other party in a civil action may request a summary judgment. Summary judgments are meant to keep courts from conducting unnecessary trials. When granted, a judge can bypass a jury and choose to dismiss negligence charges against a defendant based on lack of evidence.

An Atchison County judge recently decided to grant a Northeast Kansas woman's motion for a summary judgment. The defendant was accused of wrongful death along with two men in connection with an abduction and murder. The judge ruled the plaintiffs, the murder victim's children, had insufficient evidence to press the civil case against the woman.

The judge also granted a partial summary judgment for a second defendant, the ex-husband of the murder victim. One of four allegations against the defendant, a charge of negligent infliction of emotional distress, was thrown out for lack of evidence. The judge felt adequate proof existed to continue with a jury trial on three other charges - intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and wrongful death.

The lawsuit, filed by the victim's children last year, claimed three defendants - including the children's estranged father - conspired to abduct and kill the plaintiffs' mother. The female defendant who was charged and then dropped from the case by the summary judgment was married to a second defendant convicted of the slaying.

The civil court judge said the plaintiffs had no reason to believe the woman defendant was directly connected to the planning or commission of the abduction and murder. It was not up to the civil court to decide whether the female defendant was criminally liable for the victim's death by lying or participating in a murder cover up, the judge ruled.

Evidence of negligence must be strong and convincing in personal injury and wrongful death cases for plaintiffs to convince a jury of wrongdoing. Damage awards are based on proof that one person intentionally or carelessly harmed another.

Source: cjonline.com, "Judge removes Rebecca Hollister from wrongful death case," Ann Marie Bush, Dec. 6, 2012

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