Kornfeld Law Secures Two Multimillion-Dollar Settlements for Wrongful Death Claimants

Kornfeld Law Secures Two Multimillion-Dollar Settlements for Wrongful Death Claimants

Kornfeld Law of Seattle is known as one of the region’s premier wrongful death law firms. We are able to professionally handle cases and ensure they progress smoothly while also showing our clients genuine compassion that makes the whole situation less painful. It is with much pride that we are able to announce we recently settled two wrongful death claims, each for multimillion-dollar amounts.

Wrongful Death Police Shooting by City of Auburn

JS was shot dead but he Auburn Police in May 2019. Officer Nelson, who killed JS, previously had shot and killed two other suspects in 2011 and 2017 with shots to the head just like JS. He was also involved in more than 70 incidences of use of excessive force.

Office Nelson claimed that his shooting of JS was in self-defense. But the King County Prosecutor’s analysis of the closed-circuit videotapes taken from the convenience store when and where this happened showed differently. JS was unarmed and did not provoke or threaten the officer even though they were both physically involved in a scuffle after the officer tried to physically arrest JS rather than wait for backup. Within 40 seconds of when the officer approached JS, Officer Nelson shot him twice, all before back up arrived minutes later. After having instigated this scuffle, the officer pulled out his handgun and shot JS in the abdomen. As he watched JS writher on the ground in pain, bleeding from his abdomen, the officer readied himself, and four seconds after JS fell to the ground, Office Nelson shot him again with a bullet to the front of his head. JS was no threat as he was on the ground after the first shot.

Our law firm contended that Office Nelson had a history of execution-style murders of suspects. All three including JS were essentially executed by shots to the head. All shootings by Officer Nelson were essentially without due process to each victim under the laws of our Constitution. We argued that the City knew of this officer’s dangerous propensity for execution-style vigilante justice and Auburn should have disciplined, retrained, or fired him. But Auburn did absolutely nothing until after JS was murdered by Office Nelson.

At the end of August 2020, the County charged Officer Nelson with one count of Murder 2 and one count of Assault 1. This helped us solidify our case and emboldened us to stay firm on our grounds that we would not settle with the City of Auburn for less than $4,000,000. This number was their underlying self-insurance retention limit. Our demand made it clear that the City would have one chance, and only one chance, to pay the policy limits. If our settlement demand for payment of $4,000,000 was not met, we would be seeking an excess verdict of $20 million at trial because two focus groups (mock jury trials) indicated that a jury would be mad and irate over the City’s failures to discipline and retrain Officer Nelson. The focus groups showed us that any jury would likely want to punish the City and Officer Nelson by rendering with a very large verdict.

The City suggested mediation and failed to make any premeditation offers to settle. We remained firm and did not budge on our demand for $4,000,000, particularly after another focus group that was completed two days before mediation had suggested that a jury would award punitive damages far greater than $4,000,000. At 5 PM, shortly before our offer to settle for $4 million expired, the City agreed to pay the demand of $4,000,000. This settlement was court-approved along with attorney’s fees, costs and payment of all subrogation.

The family of JS was thankful that this ordeal was resolved short of a suit. A 58-page civil rights complaint was served on the City’s attorneys. We were prepared to try this case having secured three excessive force-police brutality experts and a videographer who was prepared to opine that there appeared no aggravating circumstances or issues of self-defense prior to when the officer tried to take down JS without provocation by JS and before the police backup team arrived.

Wrongful Death of Toddler Who Fell Into an Open Septic Tank

In early 2020, a young child, JD, walked around his family’s rental home and slipped down a muddy bank before falling headfirst through and into the unsecured and uncovered opening to a septic tank and drowned.

The owners/landlord of rental, e.g. a converted garage, rented this to parents and their three children. The landlord failed to place a secured cover over the septic tank opening as required by Washington State WISHA and City/County regulations. As a result of the landlord’s choice to try and save money, at the risk of injury to others, the unsecured covering over the opening to the septic tank remained for months and months after the family moved into this borderline slum tenement for a monthly rent of $1,800.

Our firm served a demand letter on the insurer for the landlords for payment of the policy limits. The State Farm policy limits and excess with Amica were $2,500,000. State Farm Insurance had the underlying limits of $500,000 and the excess carrier, Amica, provided the excess umbrella coverage of $2,000,000. In our demand letter, we gave both carriers 60 days to pay their combined policy limits and, if they did not, we would never again accept the policy limits at a later time. They had one chance to pay the policy limits now within 60 days. We made it clear that if the carriers did not pay the limits, then we would never settle for the combined limits again. The reason was that our focus groups (mock jury trials) showed that a verdict would likely be more.

Before our offer expired, the carriers agreed to pay the combined policy limits of $2.5 million. The owners and landlords were foreign immigrants who were considered by many to be “penny wise, pound foolish.” We know local jurors in King County would likely not take kindly to a landlord who prioritized saving some money over protecting the safety of their tenants. This death was completely avoidable if the landlord had followed the safety rules of the city of Remond.

To learn more about Kornfeld Law and our wrongful death representation, you can browse our recent verdicts and settlements. You can also speak with one of our Seattle attorneys by dialing (425) 657-5255 and requesting a FREE consultation.


Request a Free Consultation

    • Please enter your first name.
    • Please enter your last name.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.