Judge Rules Nick Gordon 'Legally Responsible' in Bobbi Kristina Brown's Death, Lawyer Says
Gordon failed to appear – for the second time – in Atlanta, Georgia, court Friday morning in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Brown’s estate last year, Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford said.
Because Gordon has failed to appear twice, the judge said anything alleged by the plaintiff is admitted through omission.
The judge will now determine the amount of damages to be awarded to Brown’s estate. The suit asked for $50 million.
“In court today, we finally finished a long journey for justice for Bobbi Kristina Brown,” Brown’s estate attorney R. David Ware said in a press conference filmed by 11 Alive outside of court. “The court agrees with us, by striking Mr. Gordon’s answer that he is legally responsible for her death. The only thing left to prove is the value of her life. We intend to do that.”
“I am pleased with the outcome of today’s court proceedings. All I ever wanted was answers relating to who and what caused my daughter’s death,” her father Bobby Brown tells PEOPLE in a statement. “Today’s judgment tells me it was Nick Gordon. Now I need to process all the emotions I have and lean on God to get me and my family through this.”
Brown, the daughter of Bobby and Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her home on Jan. 31, 2015. After six months of medically induced comas and a hospice stay, Brown passed away on July 26.
Gordon has never been criminally charged in Brown’s death, but a source in the Fulton County District Attorney’s office tells PEOPLE that the criminal investigation is “still ongoing.”
“This won’t change anything in the criminal case. Generally speaking, it tends to the other way around: a criminal conviction is used in a civil case,” the source explains. “Obviously, if he had taken the stand in a civil case, we could have used what he said. But that’s not what happened here. The case is still ongoing, but there are no new updates at this time.”
A Brown family source tells PEOPLE of the decision, “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. 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.”
A rep for Brown’s estate had no comment.
Brown’s court-appointed conservator alleged that “Ms. Brown died due to a violent altercation with Defendant (Gordon) after which he placed her in a bathtub, unconscious, after he injected her with a toxic mixture,” according to legal documents related to the suit, which was obtained by local Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.
According to the complaint – which was co-signed by Bobby – Gordon and Bobbi Kristina “became embroiled in a large argument” the night of the January incident, before he allegedly gave her a “toxic cocktail” that rendered her unconscious. Bobbi Kristina’s conservator further claims that Gordon then put Bobbi Kristina face down in a tub of cold water.
In response to the civil suit, Gordon’s former attorney Jose Baez initially 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.”
Despite Gordon’s adamance that he wasn’t involved, Bobby said during a recent 20/20 interview, “The same thing that happened to my daughter is what happened to Whitney.”
He charged, “There’s only one person that was around both occasions.”
Jeffrey Backman, shareholder and complex class action defense attorney at Florida’s Greenspoon Marder, tells PEOPLE that it’s not uncommon for someone to be found civilly but not criminally responsible in a case.
“The best example is O.J. Simpson,” Backman says, explaining further, “In the O.J. criminal trial, the jury did not think that the state met its burden of proof and that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed those crimes. In a civil trial, the standard is really one that they call a ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ Which, in layman’s terms, is nothing more than saying, ‘it’s more likely than not that he did it.’ ”
Backman adds, “So you can see the disparate level of proof that’s required and the amount of convincing that would be needed to get a jury to find you civilly liable, but not criminally liable.”
•With reporting by STEVE HELLING, LIZ McNEIL and ELISSA ROSEN