9 Most Famous Wrongful Death Cases

A wrongful death is a tragic consequence of negligence by another.

This can happen in medical facilities, nursing homes, car accidents, construction sites, etc.

Wrongful Death Papers on Desk for Lawsuit

While all wrongful death cases are tragic, some notable wrongful death cases are famous due to the victim’s identity or the details surrounding the tragedy.

These are some of those notable cases.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when someone’s negligence directly causes the death of another.

Wrongful death can occur due to medical malpractice, car accident negligence, workplace negligence, product malfunctions, dangerous medication side effects, and more.

A lot of wrongful death, particularly in medical or nursing home settings, is attributed to a lack of properly trained staff.

Family members often file lawsuits to recover damages suffered after a wrongful death with the help of specialized attorneys such as the Nursing Home Law Center.

Some beloved celebrities and entertainers have even suffered from wrongful deaths.

Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers was a beloved entertainer, comedian, and actress.

She entered medical care for a minor outpatient throat procedure, but unfortunately stopped breathing and was not resurrected until about an hour later.

She was placed on life support and ultimately was unable to awaken from her induced coma, resulting in her death.

Her family filed a malpractice lawsuit, as investigators discovered that mistakes were made before and during the procedure, including ignoring declining vital signs during surgery.

These mistakes cost Joan Rivers her life.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was a famous and influential artist, known for his contributions to the pop art movement.

After recovering from gallbladder surgery, a post-operative heart arrhythmia caused his sudden death in his sleep.

His family filed a lawsuit, as it was discovered that medical staff did not properly monitor his recovery and fluid intake, resulting in water intoxication and other complications.

Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton was a high-profile actor in many treasured films such as Twister and Weird Science.

He underwent open-heart surgery to repair a damaged heart valve but ultimately required a second surgery due to complications.

He passed away from a stroke shortly after that, which may have been prevented if his surgeon had not used risky techniques during the procedure; additionally, he was not present in the surgery room during complications.

His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit for these reasons.


Aaliyah was a talented and beloved young singer, whose life tragically ended after a plane crash.

Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her record company, Virgin Records after they allegedly hired an underqualified pilot using unsafe equipment and admitted that the plane was overweighed.

Sherman Sizemore

Sherman Sizemore underwent exploratory surgery to identify the cause of abdominal pain, but the medical team’s negligence resulted in him enduring painful surgery for nearly half an hour before they realized he had not yet been administered anesthesia.

This resulted in emotional and mental trauma, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, causing his suicide by gunshot.

His family alleged that had he not experienced the trauma caused by the lack of anesthesia, he would still be alive; they filed a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was one of the most influential and famous pop singers of all time before his untimely death due to a heavy sedative (Propofol) drug intoxication prescribed by cardiologist Conrad Murray.

His death devasted millions of fans worldwide, including his family.

Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and his family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians involved in prescribing him heavy sedatives.

Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman was a famous comedian, actor, and screenwriter, well known for his appearances on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.

Unfortunately, he was murdered by his wife, who at the time was suffering from side effects of the anti-depressant Zoloft as well as other substances.

Family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company for not disclosing these harmful side effects as well as her psychiatrist for not closely monitoring her mental state after prescribing the medication.

Jesica Santillan

Jesica Santillan was brought to the United States from Mexico by her parents desperate to find treatment for her heart condition.

After raising funds for a necessary heart and lung transplant, doctors did not provide organs of the correct blood type, resulting in her dangerous organ rejection symptoms.

The physicians attempted to correct this error by providing a second transplant operation, but it was too late; she fell into a coma and passed away. The hospital settled.

The Ford Pinto

Ford Pintos were popular cars at the time of their release in the 1970s.

They were initially designed with the gas tank facing the rear of the vehicle, which often caused deadly explosions during rear-end collisions and other types of accidents.

The vehicles were not immediately recalled, resulting in numerous wrongful death cases as a result.


Wrongful deaths can happen to anyone at any time, including beloved entertainers, celebrities, children, and loved ones.

Notable wrongful death cases include famous artists such as Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers as victims.

While wrongful death cannot entirely be prevented, researching historical cases can increase awareness if the worst should happen.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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