What Does "Legally Responsible" Mean?

On Friday, 11 Alive news reported that Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford ruled that Nick Gordon is "legally responsible" for Bobbi Kristina Brown's death after he failed to appear in court for the second time. At the time of the news, Bustle reached out to Gordon's rep for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. The judge said that due to Gordon's failure to appear in court twice, anything alleged by the plaintiff was admitted through omission. Now, a jury is responsible for determining the amount of damages that will be awarded to Brown's conservator. The original wrongful death lawsuit filed against Gordon in August 2015 by Brown's estate sought $50 million in damages. The terminology surrounding the judges ruling may confuse some, so what does "legally responsible" mean?

Regarding the filing of the wrongful death lawsuit, Gordon released a statement to People via his former lawyer Jose Baez in June and said, "We have repeatedly said that Nick Gordon is innocent of any wrongdoing. He has not been charged with any crime. Enough is enough; let's end this baseless speculation."

The term "legally responsible" is pretty simple and basically translates to "liable," which is the term Entertainment Tonight is using when discussing the judge's ruling against Gordon. According to the Federal Bar Association, liable means, "Responsible or accountable to another." Basically, Gordon is being held accountable for the death of Brown. To be clear, no criminal charges have been filed against Gordon, making this a civil case and not a criminal one. The difference between the two is a civil case is usually brought on by someone wanting to collect money owed or monetary damages, which is what the Brown family is doing. A criminal case is brought on by the local, state, or federal government in order to seek a fine, a jail sentence, or both.

So, by finding Gordon "legally responsible," he won't be going to jail, but will likely end up paying monetary damages and by law is recognized as the responsible party for Brown's death. As Criminal Defense Lawyer explains about civil liability, "If you intentionally or even just mistakenly injure someone or damage someone's property, you could end up being responsible for paying for the other person's losses."

When the 13-page lawsuit was first filed against Gordon, Brown's conservator, Bedelia Hargrove, claimed (via E! News) that before Brown was found unconscious and facedown in her bathtub in January 2015, Gordon allegedly fought with her, allegedly called her derogatory names, and allegedly gave her a "toxic cocktail rendering her unconscious" leading him to allegedly "put her face down in a tub of cold water causing her to suffer brain damage."

After the decision by the judge on Friday, Brown's attorney R. David Ware told 11 Alive, "It’s not a criminal case but it doesn’t have to be. We want to legally establish he was responsible for her injuries the proceeded her death and we’ve done that today."

Brown's family also released a statement to People about the judge's ruling: "We are praising God. This has been a long time coming. But all the judgments in the world won't bring Krissy back. We miss her every single day." The statement continued, "Even when there's justice, it's not comfort. She was gone too soon, and we all have to live with that. I hope Nick lives with it every day for the rest of his life, because we sure are."