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Prince's heirs take next steps toward wrongful death claim

An Illinois court has given the heirs of music icon Prince access to some documents that they hope will give them critical clues about the events leading up to his death -- including enough information to decide if a wrongful death lawsuit is possible.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed when someone dies as a result of another person's negligence. In Illinois, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of an individual's death. For Prince, that date will be before the end of April, 2018.

The documents to which the heirs gained access are medical records related to medical care the musician received when his plane landed abruptly in Illinois. Prince had overdosed on opiates inflight and had to be given shots of Narcan, an opiate binder that works like an antidote.

A week later, the legendary singer, 57, was found deceased at his home. He had overdosed on fentanyl, a high-powered opiate that is stronger than morphine or heroin. Investigators found numerous prescriptions for painkillers in his home. No charges have ever been filed in his death, although authorities have hinted that they are possible.

Attorneys for the singer's six heirs are now permitted to view the medical documents related to his stop in Illinois only in the sheriff's office. They will be able to make notes, but not make copies of the documents. Nor may they disclose what they find to either Prince's kin or the public. The goal is to protect his heir's right to pursue a wrongful death suit if one is warranted while still protecting the criminal investigation as it moves forward.

One person who has been viewed with interest as a possible suspect in the criminal investigation and as a subject of a wrongful death is a friend of the singer who was with him when he overdosed on the plane. Attorneys for the friend have reviewed the evidence themselves and stated that they believe it shows that their client was not liable in any way for the singer's death.

This case bears watching because it shows how a criminal investigation and a civil complaint for wrongful death sometimes have competing interests. The criminal case is designed to serve the state's interests, while the civil complaint serves only private interests.

Source: StarTribune, "Attorneys for Prince heirs granted access to some investigation documents," David Chanen, March 28, 2018

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