Pa. judge rules wrongful death lawsuit against murderer's parents can proceed

A judge has ruled a wrongful death lawsuit can proceed against the parents of the man who murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

Ian Bush
June 09, 2018 - 10:00 pm
Eric Frein

Pennsylvania State Police

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A common pleas court judge in Lackawanna County has ruled a wrongful death lawsuit can proceed against the parents of the man who murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

Eric Frein was 31 when he ambushed and shot Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Tpr. Alex Douglass outside their barracks in Blooming Grove, Pike County.

So why might his mom and dad, Eugene and Deborah, be blamed for their adult son's actions?

"The judge recognized even parents of adult children can be, in the right circumstances, held responsible if the person bringing the lawsuit is able to show certain elements, including mental illness, disability, and influence," says Marion Munley, a Scranton attorney who represents Dickson's widow, Tiffany.

Munley contends Eric Frein's parents knew he suffered from mental illness, failed to secure treatment, "indoctrinated" him with dangerous views, and allowed him unrestricted access to guns.

"Eric Frein felt he was going to start a revolution by shooting members of the state police," she says. "We allege that goes back to the psychological manipulation the parents had over Eric since he was a child, their view about police, and that they used those views to manipulate their son."

A lawyer for Eugene and Deborah argues they had no legal "duty of care" as Eric was a competent adult with no history or diagnosis of mental illness.

Judge Terrence Nealon tossed out the claim alleging Eugene Frein is "vicariously liable" for his son's actions, citing the "absence of the requisite agency relationship between the father and the shooter."

The wrongful death suit now proceeds to the discovery phase, in which attorneys for both sides exchange details about the witnesses and evidence they'll present at a jury trial.