From the Associated Press:

Pardo’s downward slide ended Christmas Eve, when the 45-year-old electrical engineer donned a Santa suit and massacred nine people at his former in-laws’ house in Covina, where a family Christmas party was under way. He then used a homemade device disguised as a present to spray racing fuel that quickly sent the home up in flames.

Pardo had planned to flee to Canada following the killing spree but suffered third-degree burns in the fire — which melted part of the Santa suit to him — and decided to kill himself instead, investigators said. His body, with a bullet wound to the head, was found at his brother’s home about 40 miles away.

Pardo had a 9-year-old son, Matthew, by another former girlfriend, Elena Lucano. He had not seen the child for years, but apparently was claiming him as a dependent for tax purposes. Lucano told the Los Angeles Times that she didn’t know Pardo was claiming their son as a dependent.

The boy was left severely brain damaged as a toddler when he fell into a backyard swimming pool on Jan. 6, 2001 while Pardo was alone with him at his former home in Woodland Hills, according to attorney Jeffrey Alvirez, who represented Lucano in the resulting court case.

Medical costs reached $340,000. Lucano sued Pardo to obtain money from his $100,000 homeowner’s insurance policy and about $36,000 was put into a trust fund for the boy, who requires constant care. Pardo never contributed any more money to the boy’s care.

"He never spent a dime on his son," Alvirez said.

A high school girlfriend described Pardo as, back then, having been "a very easygoing person, a very friendly guy." Now he’s the Santa Gunman, after years of ignoring his own disabled child.

I often hear that personal injury plaintiffs want to "get lucky" with their accident, that the most important consideration is to ensure no one gets a "windfall." No doubt, there are plenty of people who want to find a reason to sue or to profit from a trivial infraction. I reject cases like that every day.

But let’s be clear: no one who needs a trial lawyer is "lucky." Most of my catastrophic injury or wrongful death cases look like Matthew’s. A child, a loved one, or an "easygoing, friendly" person was going about their ordinary life, doing something everyone else has done, when something went terribly wrong.

It wasn’t too long ago that Matthew’s case would be considered a hunt for a "windfall;" after all, they were suing over something his own father did. Law students will recall Arizona’s Broadbent v. Broadbent case, 184 Ariz. 74, 907 P.2d 43 (1995), a favorite of textbooks, which involved similar circumstances and the doctrine of "parental immunity."

There are obviously far more causes of the tragedy here — from mental illness, to a messy divorce, to losing his job — than his son’s accident. But I can’t help but wonder what Bruce Pardo’s life would have been like if his son had never been injured. I’m sure he wondered, too.