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When is someone else liable for a suicide?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2019 | Firm News

When a loved one commits suicide, survivors of the event will look for reasons why. While we often attribute suicide to mental disorders and unhappiness, there are cases where someone else may be liable.

Although nothing can ever bring back a loved one, it is completely natural for those affected by a suicide to seek justice for the early departure of a loved one, especially if they suspect another party’s wrongdoing.

A tragic case of wrongful death

One way that you may be able to pursue justice for a loved one’s departure is by filing a wrongful death claim. An individual can be held liable for a wrongful death if their actions are proved to directly cause the death of another.

For example, Mia St. John, a professional boxer pursued a wrongful death claim against Telecare’s La Casa Mental Health Rehabilitation Center for their negligence in preventing her schizophrenic son’s suicide. St. John’s son was recovering from substance abuse and at high-risk for suicide; La Casa’s staff told St. John that her son would be checked on every 15 minutes. However, her son was able to escape the facility for several hours without the police being notified.

Police eventually found St. John’s son and brought him back to the facility. There, he attempted to commit suicide. St. John claims that she attempted to retrieve her son, but that La Casa vehemently insisted that he should stay in in-patient care and promised to keep him safe. About two weeks later, her son was found dead from suicide.

St. John’s article in the Washington Post outlined her story and highlighted that her son’s case was not unique. She hopes that by pursuing a wrongful death claim will help hold medical institutions to a higher standard and prevent more stories like her son’s from happening.

Another way to pursue legal action

Another common method for trying to establish liability in someone’s suicide is a medical malpractice claim. This claim can involve a psychiatrist who failed to properly identify and prevent a suicidal patient, or a medical professional who wrongfully prescribed drugs that may have imbalanced the individual.

This could also encompass a case like Mia St. John’s case against the mental health center. Once a person is admitted into a medical health rehabilitation center, the center is taking on responsibility for monitoring their behavior and helping them to recover. If they believe that the patient is at risk for suicide, and are negligent in monitoring them, they may be liable for the patient’s suicide.

In medical malpractice cases, you will usually need to prove that there was an established doctor-patient relationship, that the doctor deviated from standard practices, and that these deviations were the direct cause of harm to the patient.

Seeking justice for a loved ones death

While no amount of legal action can ever bring back your loved one, there are steps you can take to seek justice. These claims are not always about seeking monetary compensation but can also be about holding individuals accountable and preventing potential future suicides.