Following a lawsuit filed by Daunte Wright’s family, as the surviving relatives of Daunte Wright Sr., a judge ordered that the settlement money from Brooklyn Center Police awarded to Wright’s family be distributed among the eligible Daunte Wright family members. I am wrongful death attorney, Michael Ehline. However, I am not licensed to practice law in Daunte Wright’s state. But the case interests me procedurally, so I am going to break it down using California law for my California audience.
The Wright family attorneys appear to have not originally included Wright’s baby mama, Chyna Whitaker, except to promise her some money from GoFundMe and an effort to get police better training involving traffic stops.
Daunte Wright was fatally shot in a traffic stop for expired registration tags in April of 2021 as a white, female Brooklyn Center police officer. She mistakenly shot him with her gun instead of her taser. It is believed Daunte Wright was suffering a mental health crises when he resisted arrest and drove away, using his vehicle as a deadly weapon, presenting a public safety threat, ultimately leading to Wright’s death.
“On April 11, Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was pulled over for an expired registration tab and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror — which is illegal in Minnesota — Brooklyn Center police officer Anthony Luckey testified. He was training with Potter on the day of the incident.” (Source ABC News)
The lion’s share of the wrongful death lawsuit settlement money will mainly go to his son, Daunte Wright, Jr. In 2015, Kim Potter was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and is currently serving a sentence of ten years in prison. The case against her came on the heels of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, having killed multiple convicted, violent felon, George Floyd, who was high on illegal narcotics, trying to buy liquor store goods with counterfeit U.S. currency. Floyd was intoxicated on illegal narcotics, behind the wheel of a van at the time. Chauvin exceeded the use of lawful force to detain Floyd, killing him.
The Wright family’s attorneys leveraged the press, using the Floyd family’s lead celebrity attorney, Ben Crump, to go after the white police officer here. Although the surviving family of Daunte Wright appeared to be trying to get most of the money for themselves, the judge, Bridget Sullivan, wasn’t having any of it.
In 2022, the city of Brooklyn Center compensated Wright’s family with a settlement of over $3 million. In October, the mother of Wright’s child sued his family. Allegedly, the settlement was to include changes in police policies about officer intervention policies, bias, and weapons confusion. According to the lawsuit, Wright’s family and attorney Benjamin Crump promised that a portion of the money raised through a crowdfunding campaign would go to Wright’s surviving child.
In October, Chyna Whitaker, the non-married mother of Daunte Wright’s son, sued the Daunte Wright family. In her lawsuit, she alleged that Wright’s parents and attorney Ben Crump promised her that half of the money raised by the GoFundMe — over $1 million — would go to Wright’s son. Apparently, a permanent memorial to Wright is supposed to be part of the “meaningful non-monetary relief.” However, according to Chyna Whitaker, she had not received the promised money from GoFundMe or any source, for that matter.
A Minor’s Compromise in California court remains a complex, expensive, time-consuming legal process where a court approves a settlement of a personal injury claim on behalf of a minor (a child under 18 years old) who is a party to a lawsuit. Typically, the attorney will need to involve a probate court and have an unbiased Guardian ad Litem appointed. One can imagine how survivors can be like sharks smelling blood, such as blood money. Courts know this, which is a major reason judges are there to protect the child or children.
In this case, since the mother was not married unless there was a will or trust, she is not entitled to partake in a wrongful death lawsuit. Her problem is that her son is allowed to get some of that cash. But how can the judge trust any of these people? And how much would a son get from a father who showed no real chance or desire to be a provider or nonabsentee father, if that was the case here?
This process is designed to ensure that the minor’s interests are protected and that any settlement proceeds inuring to the child are used for the minor’s benefit. Here, the survivors sued for their injuries for loss of consortium, and any lost income their dead family member would have provided them.
When a minor is injured in California and is a party to a personal injury lawsuit, the court must approve any settlement or judgment obtained on their behalf before it can be finalized. This is because although minors are apparently old enough to be sexually indoctrinated by public school teachers and even be physically or chemically castrated at tax expense, they cannot legally make binding agreements or sign legal documents.
To obtain court approval for a minor’s settlement, the minor’s parent or legal guardian must petition the court and provide documentation regarding the minor’s injuries, medical treatment, and future needs. The court must review the settlement and make a judicial determination whether or not it appears fair and reasonable, given the circumstances of the case.
If the court approves the settlement, the proceeds are typically placed in a blocked account or structured settlement annuity, which can only be accessed for the minor’s benefit, such as for medical expenses, education, or other necessities.
Overall, a Minor’s Compromise is an important legal process in California. Similarly in other states, is designed to protect the financial interests of minors who are parties to personal injury lawsuits.
According to court records, this is how the money will be distributed:
Wright’s 5-year-old half-brother, Marcus Wright, wanted $20,000 but will not get any money.
The birth mother will likely want to dip into the settlement funds, as this likely represents a cash windfall she’d of never gotten from Daunte Wright’s father. But the court will want to make sure that money is not being used for her own enrichment, like getting her hair and nails done. Had she been legally married, she would likely have received money for herself too. The infighting will need to be monitored by the court and any court-appointed referee until such time as Daunte Wright Jr. turns 18 and can spend all his money as he chooses. Daunte Wright’s family picked the right wrongful death lawyer, which is why they got such as great result when compared to any contributions the decedent would have likely provided to the family. If we missed something, please reach out so we can update or correct bad information!
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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