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92-Year-Old Man Facing Wrongful Death Suit in Son’s Killing

Richard Peck, age 92, from Old Town in San Diego, is facing a wrongful death suit following his guilty plea in the felony voluntary manslaughter of his son, Robert Peck, age 53. Peck, who reported the incident to a neighbor and confessed to killing his son back in November, was sentenced to three years of probation last month. Peck must also undergo home confinement and monitoring.

The multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit was filed in January. The plaintiffs in that suit are Robert Peck’s son, Ryan, and his mother, the estranged ex-wife of the younger Peck, Annette.

The elder Peck says that his son, who he allowed to live with him, was psychologically abusive to him. On the night of the killing, his son allegedly smashed the father’s home phone, which he used as his primary means of communication, and then made threats to him prior to bed, causing him to be afraid to go to sleep. Richard Peck’s daughter says her brother abused her father on a daily basis. Robert Peck’s blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit at the time of his death. He also had prescription drugs in his system, says authorities.

Richard Peck initially entered a not-guilty plea and was facing up to 50 years in prison. He ultimately changed his plea under a plea deal that took into account his age, health and the abuse he suffered at his son’s hands.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In California, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the surviving family members of a decedent who dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act. The wrongful death action can be in addition to and regardless of any criminal action. Wrongful death claims are filed in civil court. Even if a defendant in criminal court is adjudged not guilty or pleas to a lesser crime, the person can be used, often successfully, in civil court.

Whereas a criminal trial is public, a civil death claim is not. The relief requested is not jail time for the defendant, but instead is monetary damages for the death of a loved one. Proof required in a civil death case is lesser than that required for a criminal conviction. Families members do not have to prove their case to beyond-reasonable-doubt standards; they must only show that the defendant was at fault. And unlike in a criminal trial, in a civil wrongful death case, the defendant is not afforded any presumption of innocent. The preponderance of the evidence is sufficient to provide standard proof. In other words, if a plaintiff can show that the defendant is more apt to be guilty than to be not guilty, the case is usually successful. Wrongful death claims where there has been an admission of guilt are obviously stronger than those where the defendant was found not guilty.

Help with Wrongful Death Claim

If you lost a loved one too soon due to someone’s wrongdoing, negligence or even intentional action, The Law Offices of Edward J. Babbitt, APC, can help. Schedule your appointment for free case consultation with our San Diego wrongful death attorney now.