When James and Kimberly Snead opened up their home to orphaned Nikolas Cruz, they never imagined the horror that would follow just 2 ½ months later. On February 14, 2018, the 19-year-old stormed into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and violently murdered 17 people and injured 17 more. Now, the Sneeds are facing multiple wrongful death claims, and they anticipate that more will be coming in the future.
Many have applauded the Sneads’ decision to let the young Cruz into their home. Others have condemned them for being willfully blind to the dangers of allowing a mentally unstable young man to own and store an AR-15 in their home. As a result, several of his victims have filed lawsuits with allegations that the Sneads should have known that Cruz was mentally ill and posed a threat to others.
One of these lawsuits is a wrongful death claim filed by the estate of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack.
Are the Snead’s Liable for Cruz’s Actions?
The Snead’s have been quick to defend themselves and their actions. When Cruz moved his gun collection into their home, they insisted that he buy a locking gun cabinet and that they remained in possession of the only key. They claim that they were unaware of his disturbing social media posts and never saw any warning signs that Cruz would turn violent.
The Sneads, like many American families, live paycheck to paycheck and are afraid that the cost of litigation will drive them into bankruptcy. To help with their sudden legal fees, they have set up a GoFundMe page. They have even considered moving out of Parkland to rebuild their lives after this tragic incident.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim Is Difficult
To win a wrongful death claim in Florida, you must prove three elements:
- Duty of Care – You must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person
- Breach of Care – You must establish that the defendant breached this duty of care
- Causation of Death – You must prove that the breach of care was the cause of the wrongful death
To prove each of these elements in a wrongful death claim, you must meet the “burden of proof” with an extensive amount of evidence. It’s important to note, however, that this burden of proof is lower than the burden of proof in criminal cases, where the standard is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In the state of Florida, survivors only have 2 years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. If you miss the deadline, you’ll forfeit the opportunity to file a claim. There are certain circumstances when you may be eligible for an extension of this deadline, which is why it’s important to speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible for a complete review your case.
Call Our Compassionate Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you have lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence or misconduct in Volusia or Flager counties, the Florida wrongful death attorneys at Zimmet & Zimmet are here to help. Our lawyers offer compassionate legal counsel every step of the way. Contact us today at (386) 255-6400 for a free initial consultation and review of your case.