In a wrongful death lawsuit, it is not uncommon for the plaintiff to name several different defendants in the suit. That’s because in many cases, the cause of someone’s death may involve more than one person or entity. Throughout pre-trial motions, a judge often considers whether or not all of these defendants should be involved in the lawsuit. And sometimes, the judge decides that they shouldn’t – and dismisses them from the suit.
That’s what happened this week in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a shooting death of a man by police at a Costco store in Summerlin last July. In that incident, Metro Police responded to a 911 call that a man with a gun was causing a disturbance at the store. Erik Scott came out of the store, and police shot and killed him because they thought he was threatening them. A coroner’s inquest later determined that the shooting was justified, but the family disagreed and filed suit.
The original lawsuit in federal court named the individual officer, Metro Police, Costco, a Costco security officer, and Clark County as defendants. Later, the family voluntarily dropped the retailer and the security officer from the suit but maintained the right to sue them in state court at a later date.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Edward Reed, Jr. ruled that Clark County should also be taken off of the list of defendants. Reed said that even though Metro Police is technically under the oversight of Clark County, the county does not have direct responsibility over the training or conduct of the police officers. Metro Police and the individual officer are still parties in the wrongful death lawsuit.
This ruling has implications on future lawsuits which may target Metro Police. If the precedent holds, then other plaintiffs who sue Metro Police may not be able to name Clark County as a co-defendant in those suits.