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WV Wrongful Death Lawyer Gets $3M Jury Award for Figniak Parents

(Wheeling, WV – August 1, 2017) – On August 2, 2017, a federal court jury awarded $3 million in damages to the parents of Kevin Figaniak in their wrongful death suit. The 21-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University student died on Labor Day weekend in 2013 from traumatic head injuries following a street altercation. WV wrongful death lawyer Guy R. Bucci, of Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, and Jeffrey P. Goodman, of Philadelphia-based Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C., represented Figaniak’s family.


On August 31, 2013, Figaniak lost consciousness after a street altercation with two pipeline workers in Wheeling. Following the incident, TylerKevin Figaniak, Victim of the Failure to Obtain Medical Attention, Represented by WV Wrongful Death Lawyer Guy R. Bucci Johnson, Figaniak’s friend and lacrosse teammate, refused to get him medical attention. Instead, Johnson tried to drag the unconscious Figaniak to his apartment. On the way, Johnson dropped Figaniak headfirst onto a cement street. Figaniak died about 24 hours after the altercation.

In 2015, Figaniak’s parents filed suit in federal court (No. 5:15-cv-111, U.S. District Court, Northern District of West Virginia) asserting that Figaniak would have survived the beating if only Johnson had immediately called 911. Also named as defendants were the two men who had attacked Figaniak and the establishments that had allegedly served them alcohol.

After less than four hours of deliberations, the jury found Johnson 75% at fault for Figaniak’s death. The jury also awarded $1.25 million in punitive damages against Johnson. One of the two men who had fought with Figaniak, Jarrett Chandler, was found 6% responsible for Figaniak’s death, and the other man involved in the altercation, Craig Tyler Peacock, was found 13% at fault. Chandler had previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with Figaniak’s death, and Peacock had been acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges. Johnson was not charged in the criminal case.


“The jury’s verdict sent a clear message – ‘when your friend needs medical Kevin Figaniak Playing Lacrosseattention – you need to stop thinking about yourself and instead get them help.’ Had Tyler Johnson done that, Kevin would still be alive today,” stated Mr. Goodman. “By finding Johnson 75% responsible and holding him accountable for punitive damages, the jury definitively stated that Kevin’s death was the fault of his supposed friend, Tyler Johnson.”

Mr. Bucci added, “From the start, Kevin’s family wanted justice for their child and to send a message to others about how to act when someone – close friend or total stranger – is in distress. The jury’s adamant verdict can’t bring back their son, but it was fair and it was just. And they are grateful.”


Under West Virginia law, Johnson is jointly and severally liable for the full damages award by virtue of being found 75% responsible. Mr. Goodman said the legal team fully expects to collect the full damages award. Johnson, through his insurance carrier, only offered to settle the case for $25,000 before trial and never increased that offer during trial.

Mr. Figaniak was a gifted two-sport athlete, having excelled in ice hockey as well as lacrosse. He had played for Pennridge High School before entering Wheeling Jesuit University. Figaniak died in a Pittsburgh hospital the day after the altercation. The two pipeline workers – one from Florida, the other Louisiana -were also found liable, but to a much lesser degree than Johnson. Unlike Johnson, they have both expressed remorse for their actions.

Mr. Goodman and Mr. Bucci commended the trial judge and lauded the jury.

Guy R. Bucci is a Charleston, WV wrongful death lawyer. He also represents clients in cases involving serious and catastrophic personal injury and commercial and insurance disputes. If you have a wrongful death claim, contact Guy R. Bucci at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC by calling 304-346-5500 or via the firm’s contact page.

WV Wrongful Death Lawyers Answer FAQ

If you’ve recently lost a loved one due to wrongful death in West Virginia (WV), it’s likely that you’re not just dealing with the grieving process. You may also be trying to pay medical, funeral, and other bills with less income. The last thing you need is to spend Photo of grieving boy, signifying how Hendrickson & Long’s WV wrongful death lawyers can help pursue monetary recovery and hold wrongdoers accountable and answering the oft-asked question--what makes a death wrongfulhours canvassing the Internet, searching for credible information on wrongful death law just to find out about your legal options. In this blog, our experienced WV wrongful death lawyers give you straight information about the seven questions most people ask.

Use this blog to learn about the basics. And although we know that no amount of money can ever replace your lost loved one, acting quickly is critical. In nearly all cases, the law of the Mountain State places a hard deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit: two years.

The Seven Questions Most People Ask WV Wrongful Death Lawyers

1.     What Makes a Death Wrongful under WV Law?

When you’re faced with the loss of a loved one, especially after a fatal accident, the death often seems “wrong.” But there’s a difference between that feeling and a tragic death that could be considered a “wrongful death” under state law. Only the latter may result in a successful wrongful death action against a wrongdoer.

In WV, a death is considered legally wrongful when a person’s death (the “decedent”) is caused by the wrongful act or conduct of another. Bradshaw v. Soulsby, 558 S.E.2d 681, 687 (W. Va. 2001).

There is no list of causes that makes a death wrongful, but here are several examples of circumstances often seen by our experienced WV wrongful death lawyers:

  • Automobile, truck, and motorcycle crashes, including drunk driving and distracted driving
  • Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
  • Chemical exposure, substance exposure, and poisoning
  • Defective consumer products, such as cars
  • Falls
  • Fires and explosions
  • Medical malpractice and mistakes, including birth injuries and medication errors
  • Recreational accidents, often suffered on four-wheelers or boats or in swimming pools
  • Workplace accidents caused intentionally or recklessly

Unfortunately, family members who have lost a loved one often don’t realize that someone else caused or contributed to the death. As a result, many wrongful death lawsuits go unfiled.

2.     What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case in WV?

W. Va. Code §§ 55-7-5 to -8a set forth WV’s law on wrongful death. Here is the actual language of the law that explains when a wrongful death lawsuit is allowed in WV:

Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would (if death had not ensued) have entitled the party injured to maintain an action to recover damages in respect thereof[.]

W. Va. Code § 55-7-5.

The Supreme Court of West Virginia has indicated that there are two elements to a wrongful death claim in the Mountain State: (1) “that a person has died”; and (2) “that the death was caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default.” See Graham v. Asbury, 420 S.E.2d 567 (W. Va. 1992).

3.     Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in WV?

WV law very clearly defines who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit: “the personal representative of [the] deceased person who has been duly appointed.” However, this is a different issue than who may recover damages under WV law. West Virginia Code § 55-7-6 allows a judge or jury to direct how wrongful death damages will be distributed to any of the following people:

  • A surviving spouse
  • Surviving children, including adopted children and stepchildren
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Anyone who was financially dependent on the person at the time of death

4. What Damages May Be Recovered by WV Wrongful Death Lawyers?

WV law permits a broad recovery of damages in the event of a wrongful death, specifically allowing for damages that “may seem fair and just.” This includes both monetary and nonmonetary damages.

In a WV wrongful death lawsuit, monetary damages are tied to expenses and concrete losses. They include the following:

  • Past, present, and future lost wages and benefits
  • Medical, care, treatment, and hospital expenses related to the accident
  • Reasonable funeral expenses
  • Money to repair or replace damaged property, such as a car that was destroyed in the fatal crash

Experienced WV wrongful death lawyers are also adept at recovering non-monetary damages for their clients. These damages take skill to clearly establish and quantify. They are intended to compensate those left behind for intangible losses like these:

  • Sorrow and mental anguish
  • Loss of care, protection, and assistance
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice

5.     When Must a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed in WV?

WV law places a strict time limit on when a wrongful death claim must be filed. Nearly always, a lawsuit for wrongful death must be filed within two years of the date of death. Exceptions are rare and are typically recognized only by experienced WV wrongful death lawyers. In addition, after the death of a loved one, medical, funeral, and other expenses tend to pile up quickly. For these reasons, it’s important to contact an experienced, trustworthy WV wrongful death attorney right away.

6.     What If I Can’t Afford to Pay a WV Wrongful Death Lawyer?

Most WV families who need the services of a wrongful death attorney cannot afford to pay legal fees or costs when they are incurred. That’s why when Hendrickson & Long takes your case, we cover the costs up front—things like filing fees, lawsuit expenses, and even expert fees. You pay nothing unless we recover money for you.

7.     Why Should I Choose Hendrickson & Long as My WV Wrongful Death Lawyers?

Our attorneys have handled hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of WV families. That means that we have helped people just like you face the ultimate loss. But we know more than just the legal landscape. We’ve tried cases and argued motions in courthouses all over the state. We know the judges and court staff who work there. And we also know the insurance companies that deal with thousands of WV wrongful death claims.

In addition, we’ve been recognized by outside agencies, our peers, and even our opponents as experts in personal injury and wrongful death law. Here’s a sampling of some of our awards:

  • Top ratings by Super Lawyers, an honor reserved for only five percent of lawyers nationwide
  • Recognition in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Firms

You don’t have to try to learn wrongful death law on your own. Learn about how the law of the Mountain State applies to your circumstances by taking advantage of a free consultation with Hendrickson & Long’s WV wrongful death lawyers. Just fill out our Contact form or call us at 304-346-5500.