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John Ritter Passed Away on His Daughter's 5th Birthday — A Look Back at the Tragic Story and Grief

Oyin Balogun
Jun 21, 2021
05:50 A.M.
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Nearly two decades after his death, fans are still remembering John Ritter, leading many to wonder what his family has been up to since the tragic loss. Well. Take a look!


Actor John Ritter unexpectedly passed away on his youngest daughter's birthday, leaving his family and Hollywood at large with a void that is yet to be filled.

But while death is a natural occurrence, Ritter's demise caused quite a stir with his family. From the lawsuit to details about his death, here's a look into the tragic story.

Actor John Ritter attends the 4th Annual Family Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images



After decades of gracing television screens and thrilling fans with his comedic skills and larger-than-life personality, Ritter suddenly died on September 11, 2003.

He fell ill earlier that day and was taken to the hospital, where he underwent heart surgery. Unfortunately, Ritter died some hours after the procedure.

On his final day, Ritter worked on the set of "8 simple rules...For Dating My Teenage Daughter," so his death came as a shock to his co-stars and colleagues in the industry.

Amy Yasbeck, John Ritter, his son Jason Ritter & daughter Carly Ritter at the 2003 Angel Awards | Photo: Getty Images


Neil Simon, who was to make a guest appearance on the show, noted that Ritter was more than a comic. He described him as "a real actor with a genius for comedy."

Actress Joyce DeWitt called Ritter's death a great loss to the world's joy, while Suzanne Somers described him as the best physical comic she had ever seen.

But while Hollywood suffered a great loss, his family was left even more heartbroken. September 11, 2003 also doubled as his daughter Stella's fifth birthday.

Amy Yasbeck and John Ritter at the 29th Annual People's Choice Awards | Photo: Getty Images



Most devastated by Ritter's unexpected death was his wife, Amy Yasbeck, whom he married four years before in September 1999.

Ritter and Yasbeck met while appearing in the 1989 movie "The Problem Child" and its sequel. They took their relationship to the next level in 1997 when they moved in together.

Two years later, when they officially became man and wife, Yasbeck and Ritter started their life as a couple, and in their short time together, she was happy—really happy.

John Ritter at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons


But on the day Ritter passed, Yasbeck's world became gloomy, and suddenly nothing really mattered anymore—except maybe getting justice for her late husband.


A few years after his death, Yasbeck filed a wrongful death lawsuit against two doctors, the cardiologist who treated Ritter the day he died and a radiologist that had performed a body scan two years before.

In the lawsuit, Yasbeck claimed that the cardiologist treated Ritter for a heart attack rather than a torn aorta which was identified as the cause of death. St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank had previously admitted that its doctors treated Ritter for a heart attack.


John Ritter at Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, United States | Photo: Getty Images

For that, the hospital paid $9.4 million in damages. Yasbeck and her family also received some other settlements from other sources. In total, they got over $14 million.


In her wrongful death lawsuit, she claimed that the radiologist should have detected the enlarged aorta when he performed the body scan in 2001.

However, the radiologist countered her claims, revealing that he told Ritter he had triple vessel coronary disease and advised him to follow up the body scan with a visit to the cardiologist.

Actor John Ritter attends the after-party for opening night of Woody Allen's new play, "Writers Block" at Metronome | Getty Images


But during her testimony, Yasbeck insisted that if Ritter had been told he had a heart problem, he would have mentioned it to her.

She recounted the day of the body scan, adding that he showed her the results he got from the radiologist and was in good spirits about his health.

All in all, Ritter's wife believed her husband would not have died if the doctors had been efficient enough at their jobs and detected his health conditions earlier.

Actor John Ritter, his wife Amy and their daughter Stella attend the nominee announcements for the Daytime Emmy Awards on May 1, 2001 | Getty Images


Though they sought over $67 million in damages, the actress noted that her lawsuit was never about money but more about getting justice against the failing medical system.


Before his death, Ritter was a proud dad to four kids; Tyler, Jason, and Carly, from a previous marriage to Nancy Morgan and Stella (now Noah), whom he welcomed with Yasbeck.

Obviously devasted by the actor's death, it came as no surprise that they joined in filing the wrongful death lawsuit against the two doctors.

Actors John Ritter with son Jason Ritter during the "5th Annual Family Television Awards." | Source: Getty Images

And now, even nearly two decades after his passing, Ritter's kids continue to remember him in the best light, with Jason once describing him as an amazing dad.

Even better, the four siblings have all gone on to do amazing things in their respective careers, and now, there is no doubt that Ritter's legacy is living on.

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