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The Challenge of Pursuing a Civil Lawsuit Against Friends, Family or Acquaintances

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2016 | Wrongful Death

lawsuits against family members

On a seemingly average April day in Somerset, MA, Iris Estabrooks dropped her 11-year-old daughter Azriel off at a friend’s birthday party, the way parents do and always have done.

But this was no average day. Within an hour of dropping her off, Iris received a phone call that her daughter had passed out.

Five days later, Azriel died, from choking on a marshmallow.

As tragic as the event was, it didn’t have to happen. As the attorney representing Ms. Estabrooks and her husband in their civil lawsuit, I know that a significant time had passed before Azriel was discovered to be passed out, as a result of what we believe to be negligent supervision and a lack of responsiveness.

It was clear that while the Estabrooks’ could never get their daughter back, they could do something to ensure that this type of negligence would never happen again to another child.

And that’s why they brought forth this civil lawsuit against the parents of their child’s classmate.

But taking that step isn’t usually very easy.


 While I won’t go into details about the Estabrooks’ specific case at the moment, I do want to talk about the challenges my clients face when they realize their best course of action is to file a civil lawsuit against someone they know.

While my job as an attorney is to help my clients navigate through the legal process as pain-free as possible, filing a civil lawsuit is stressful and emotionally draining.

Not only must my clients relive the worst moments of their life, but often times they have to do so in the public eye, as in this case. Not only has the local news picked up on the case, but so too has other regional and national media sites like The NY Daily News and Inside Edition.

Add to all that the delicate nature of filing a lawsuit against someone you know, and, well, trust me when I say no client pursues this avenue gently.

The aftermath of a civil lawsuit is unpredictable. If it’s a suit among family members or close friends, then you can be certain that the dynamics of your relationship will be forever changed.

Even a lawsuit against an acquaintance invites its own challenges. If you live in the same town, will you forever be worried you’ll run into one another at the supermarket or elsewhere?

Many clients are hesitant to pursue their lawsuits because of this potential fallout. However, others are encouraged to march on, because they know there’s a greater victory to be had.



 In the case of the Estabrooks, we currently don’t have all the answers as to what led to Azriel’s tragic death.

But that’s one of the important points of the lawsuit – to give Azriel’s parents the opportunity to find out what happened and how it happened.

Without this suit, there’d be no closure. No resolution. No parent should have to bury her child, but if that tragedy does occur, shouldn’t the parent have the right to know what went wrong?

If you find yourself contemplating a civil lawsuit – or any type of legal action – I’m certain you’ll likely be balancing many thoughts in your mind:

  • Is it worth going through the trouble of a lawsuit?
  • Will I get the answers and resolution I need to move on?
  • Can I endure any fallout following this nightmare?

When we take on a new case, we make sure our clients know the likely hardships they’ll encounter during the legal proceedings. But we also remind our clients that, in many cases, filing a civil lawsuit is their best chance of moving on.

Is this a perfect solution? No, often times it’s not. But in an extremely imperfect, tragic, and unfair circumstance as what the Estabrooks family is enduring right now, it’s the best option we have.

These questions are asked, and answered, by the experienced legal team at Sabra & Aspden. Call us today at 508-286-7122, visiting us online at, or coming down to our Somerset, MA office, located at 1026 County Street.