A west Alabama family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama Federal court this week concerning the September 2008 shooting death of Joe Louis Bell. According to an article about the lawsuit, Mr. Bell was shot and killed in September 2008 by then York Chief of Police David Rowry. Currently, Rowry is awaiting a criminal trial on manslaughter charges.
The newspaper article indicates the family is seeking damages for pain; medical, funeral and burial expenses; financial support for Bell’s widow; and compensatory and punitive damages. Although the article does set forth the exact causes of action the family is seeking these damages under, it is apparent that the family is not seeking recovery under Alabama’s wrongful death statute. Alabama’s wrongful death statute Ala. Code 6-5-410 is purely punitive in nature and intended only to punish the wrongdoer and deter such future conduct. An experienced Alabama wrongful death attorney would to tell you that a plaintiff cannot recover compensatory damages under Alabama’s wrongful death statute.