After someone takes their own life, we look for reasons why. Often it’s because of unhappiness or mental illness, but not always. Sometimes it looks as though a person has been pushed to take their own life. But can you be prosecuted for causing someone’s suicide?
A wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by the family or estate of a person who dies due to the fault of someone else. Wrongful death laws vary from state to state, but generally, the person bringing the suit must prove that the defendant’s negligent or intentional acts caused the death and that the person bringing the suit has suffered some harm due to the death.
For a wrongful death claim to be successful, it would need to demonstrate that the person would not have killed themselves if it weren’t for the acts of the defendant. Many wrongful death claims have been filed by parents after their child has committed suicide after being bullied. When the bullying occurs at school, parents have sued both the bullies and the school.
Court Decisions Regarding Suicide
Most court cases on civil liability for suicide have involved school districts, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals after someone has taken their own life. For example, a Maryland appeals court case considered a wrongful death case that was filed against a school district after a 13-year-old middle school student committed suicide. In Eisel v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, Maryland, the court held that “school counselors have a duty to use reasonable means to attempt to prevent a suicide when they are on notice of a child or adolescent student’s suicidal intent.” In other words, the school counselors had a duty to notify the parents after the child had made suicidal statements at school.
If your child has committed suicide under any of the above circumstances, contact Jacoby & Meyers at (888) 522-6291.