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Could Kyle Rittenhouse Be Sued for Negligence?

[1.] Yes. Yes. First, the acquittal resolves only that guilt couldn’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt (requiring, say, a >90% confidence level); the standard for civil liability is preponderance of the evidence (which requires just >50%, or perhaps ≥50%, if the injury is easily proved and the burden is then shifted to the defendant to prove self-defense).

Zweiten, liability could also be based in negligence theories. Rittenhouse was charged with reckless or deliberate acts, according to the particular charge. The negligence inquiry was included in the analysis because Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim hinged on his reasonable fear of death or severe bodily injury. This would also play an important role in civil claims. In principle however, there may be greater scope to claim unreasonable behavior in civil negligence suits than in criminal homicide or attempted homicide cases. This could be because the criminal negligence standard in criminal cases tends to be higher than that for civil negligence. However, the jury instructions in this case didn’t appear to indicate that.

O.J. Simpson may lose a civil lawsuit for wrongful death even though he was acquitted in a criminal case. If someone is convicted, however, they could lose a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. Convicted at a trial, with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that would generally make him automatically liable in a civil lawsuit based on the same facts and on a similar legal theory: If guilt has been proved at a >90% confidence level, that necessarily means it has been proved at a >50% level as well, but not vice versa.

[2.] How about money? Is it possible to get 18-year olds more money? Although he was successful in raising money for his criminal defense, it is unlikely that he would be able raise enough to pay for civil defense. But I am not sure anyone would just donate to him so the plaintiffs might sue them for damages.

However, Rittenhouse’s parents may have homeowner’s insurance which covers a broad range of negligence claims against Rittenhouse’s minor children. Many homeowners insurance policies cover this, and it does not only include injuries sustained within their home. A claim that Rittenhouse “recklessly shot me” because Rittenhouse feared that he would harm or kill him would likely be covered under such a policy. However, this will depend on what the policy specifically covers. A policy like this would pay for defense costs, as well as any verdict. However, it might also provide money to settle the case. This is how most cases end up.

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However, based on my quick look at media accounts, it seems that the Rittenhouses will be renting and likely not have any other source of liability insurance. These coverages are generally provided by homeowners insurance. For a select few, there is umbrella coverage or other similar coverage.

[3.] The jury might find Rittenhouse was not negligent even under a preponderance-of-the evidence standard. If this happens, Rittenhouse could win his civil lawsuit. Self-defense can be used in civil cases. However, the standard for this defense is still preponderance. Potential plaintiffs might conclude it is futile to sue, particularly if they don’t have insurance. Civil liability can be pursued after a criminal dismissal, but it is theoretically possible.