Category Archives: Suicide By Wrongful Death

Massachusetts Case Builds Precedent for Cottage Wrongful Death Industry

suicide stop sign
stop suicide prevention campaign to hlp suicidal people

The headlines filled with the sad news out of Massachusetts over the death of Conrad Roy, just 18. He allegedly killed himself after his girlfriend, Michelle Carter (then 17), pushed him to the edge. Prosecutors allege this was intentional. Now with the case pushing forward, it builds more legal precedent.

ABC reported on the case, which riveted the Bay State. The state’s attorneys argue that Carter wanted attention and pushed Roy to the brink intentionally. The case is heartbreaking. As Roy exited in his truck filling with carbon monoxide, Carter told him to get back in. She never contacted his family or police. The prosecution believes she simply wanted to be known for having a boyfriend that died.

The Role of Litigation in Suicide Cases

To answer the question above: yes, the family in a case like this can sue. There are multiple similar cases. Take this one in Illinois, covered by the Chicago Tribune. The family of 16-year-old Corey Walgren sued the school and police over their son’s death. The dean’s office allegedly harassed him, causing him to end his life. The family requested $5 million. In another case covered by the Daily Astorian, a family sued after their loved one jumped off a bridge. The family alleges poor mental health care, which caused Carrie Barnhart’s death.

Types of Suicide Lawsuits

Since the circumstances around death are not always clear, there are multiple aspects we must consider. These include the underlying causes of the death as well as whether the other parties understood them. Furthermore, Ehline Law determines the responsibility the other party had for reasonable care.

The Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys APLC fought and won many similar, heartbreaking cases. They understand the pain and suffering that your family goes through. Their team is sensitive to every need that a grieving family goes through. Also, they work on contingency and don’t ask for a penny unless they carry the day for you. In addition, in some cases, they may be able to assist with burial and funeral expenses.

Contact them for more information. They will come anywhere in California to discuss your case. Their team weighs your legal options with you. Let them be your support through this trying time. (213) 596-9642.

New Study Indicates High Risk of Suicide Among Teens Using SSRI Antidepressants

Suicide off a building
Dead man jumping

Could this be the next new cottage industry personal injury case? Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, has increased dramatically over the last twenty years. Primarily used to treat symptoms of depression, this type of drug has also been found to increase suicidal thoughts and other side effects. Among the most popular drugs in this category are Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro. Recent findings have shown a substantial previously less-well understood risk for teenagers and pregnant women who are considering the drugs.

Philly.com recently reported on the connection between SSRI medication and suicide rates among teens. The Sydney Morning Herald cites a study conducted by an Australian psychiatrist. In the survey, it was discovered that in 13 of 14 different antidepressants, use of the drugs were more harmful to teens than using nothing at all. Altogether a series of clinical trials were utilized, with over 5,000 patients.

The medication venlafaxine, marketed as Efexor has been noted for the increased risk of suicide among patients. There is also significant concern that other drugs, including paroxetine, sertraline, and citalopram may all cause more harm than previously indicated. Even one of the most popular antidepressants that was found to create a lower risk among teens, fluoxetine (Prozac), still had a lower efficacy in reducing depression than previously believed.

The researchers noted that use of antidepressant medication jumped 16% between 2009 and 2012. Medical professionals also warn against abruptly stopping use of such drugs, instead doing so over time. This dovetails with the published finding in the Harvard Health journal in May 2016.

The study found that over 15% of pregnant women were taking antidepressants. Furthermore, the effects of SSRIs on the developing fetus are still not fully known. Considering that SSRIs were four of the top five antidepressants prescribed to pregnant women there was also reduced room for error. There is now more concern about the effect of these drugs on both the fetus and the expecting mother.

For more information or if you believe that you or a loved one has been affected by side effects from these drugs, please contact medical malpractice and prescription drug liability expert Michael Ehline today. Ehline Law has years of experience dealing with the large medical corporations that push these drugs with little regard for the long term effects on patients. Call them at (213) 596-9642.

Prisons and Suicide At the Forefront

Prison

The state of Delaware between 2000 and present day, the Department of Corrections has reported that 32 inmates have died due to suicide leaving families to question why the inmates were not monitored.  Ian Arias family is one of the families questioning why these inmates are not better protected.

Arias had a history of suicide attempts, since his teen years and after being arrested as an adult he was taken to the Delaware Psychiatric Center. Arias then faced a series of events while awaiting trial in his prison cell at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.  March 5, 2013 Ian Arias hung himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell.

Maria Cristina Kurcan filed a lawsuit hoping to get answers about her 36 year old son, Ian from Wyoming. His mother says she just wants the truth and to know it will not happen again in the prison.
The lawsuit was brought by Ian’s mother and his brother prior to the second anniversary of his death. The lawsuit claims that doctors at several state agencies and top officials failed to keep Arias safe, these include the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Corrections Care Solutions that is a company providing health care services to the state and the Delaware Psychiatric Center.

Dover Attorney Andre Beauregard, who is representing Arias family, stated that Ian was someone who made his suicidal attentions clear. The lawyer said Arias attempted to commit suicide twice while in the Department of Corrections. He was then sent to the psychiatric center and was still expressing suicidal tendencies was released back to the prison where within twenty days he was successful in committing suicide.

The lawsuit also alleges the day Arias committed suicide, March 5, 2013 at approximately 10:10 a.m. after being released from the infirmary prison officials found him unconscious. The cause of death was ruled suicide and the suit claims Arias was not regularly monitored and the prison staff was not properly trained.  Maria Cristina A. Kurcan stated about her son Ian Arias that state officials failed to keep him safe while in custody at the James T. Vaughn Corrections Center in 2013.

In the lawsuit it claims Arias told staff members he would attempt suicide when given the opportunity. It alleges that a social worker’s protests that Arias was still suicidal and exhibiting psychomotor retardation he was still discharged from the psychiatric center by a physician.  Arias mother claims once he returned to prison he was kept in the infirmary where she believes he felt isolated, since family was not permitted to visit him there.

Arias was born and raised in the Philippines, moving to the United States with his family in 1990. He was the second oldest out of eight children, with Arias mother claiming she brought them to the United States to have a good life.  The Department of Corrections in a released statement said they are dedicated to the behavioral and physical needs of inmates.

A statement released by the state agencies saying they will not comment on pending litigation.  The Department of Corrections has claimed it adheres to the 26-page policy to prevent suicides in response to Arias’ family lawsuit. Within the pages of the policy inmates are screened upon arrival at the prison to determine if they are a suicidal or self injury risk.

Inmates at risk are identified and either treated at the state’s prison facility, where they are closely monitored, inmates may also be placed in a specialized treatment setting in the prison facility, said DOC spokesman Jason Miller. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes.
The policy addresses the items at risk inmates are permitted to have, such as bed linens, pens, pencils and plastic bags.

The legal action claims that Arias had a history of major depressive disorder, being diagnosed after he attempted suicide at age 15 while he was in foster care. During the time Arias was awaiting trial he attempted to commit suicide at least two times and told the prison staff of his intent to kill himself.

The lawsuit claims a court order sent Araias in November to be transferred to the Delaware Psychiatric Center where he would receive one-on-one monitoring. Arias was medicated over the next few months and sometimes receiving one-on-one monitoring and other times having 15 minute monitoring depending on his suicidal thoughts at the time.

Arias worked as a landscaper and after being arrested on June 28, 2012 on charges of sexual abuse and rape of a child with police maintaining the rape occurred since 2011 multiple times in Arias’ home. His family was unable to post bail.

Suicide within Prison

The U.S. Department of Justice 2010 study data of deaths in jails and prison nationwide, suicide is the leading cause of death.
This was the National Study of Jail Suicide, which shows the rate of suicides in prisons over the general population is several times higher.

There has been some action taken to reduce the numbers of suicide in recent years since 2007, which has effectively resulted in few deaths. According to the study the number of suicides as dropped from the 1986 number of 107 suicides per 100,000 inmates nationwide to the 2006 number of 36 suicides per 100,000.

Inmate Suicide Prevention

The state of Delaware has focused on prevention of suicides of mentally ill inmates and patients by providing better conditions.
There have been investigations with one in 2005 of the prison medical care and a federal civil rights investigation, which resulted in a settlement. The state and federal monitoring that ended in 22013 required significant reforms (Source.)

In 2011 a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation of the Delaware Psychiatric Center resulted in calling for improved conditions with monitoring by a court appointed monitor to meet the obligations of the settlement. According to Delaware Department of Corrections between the years of 2007 and 2015 there has been 20 inmate suicides, with one occurring in 2015 at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. Since 2007 there have been 10 inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that have committed suicide.

The Department of Corrections policy states that all staff shall undergo eight hours of suicide prevention training upon starting at the prison and shall be required to take a two hour refresher course annually. This is clarified also in the 2010 national study as a recommendation.

The Department of Corrections according to mental health advocates is proceeding in the right direction and executive director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware, Jim Lafferty said that over 30 officers of a crisis center intervention team trained in May and this training could be used for correctional officers.  NAMI Delaware Executive Director Joshua Thomas stated that the Department of Corrections while handling a large number of inmates should be encouraged to focus on solutions to prevent suicides.

Guide To Preventing Prison Suicides Here.

California High School Students Accused of Taking Upskirt Pictures

Muff Shots
Looking up skirts

By attorney Michael Ehline – Yes you heard it right, Catholic School kids got caught taking snapshots of their teacher’s panties. When I was growing up, I heard stories about fellow classmates taping mirrors to their shoes so they could see up the school-girls’ skirts.  I never thought much of it, since I had the persuasive ability to remove that “skirt” barrier with just a little sweet talk even back then. All joking aside, there are some sick people out there who need a little more parental supervision and instruction, and perhaps a little less Ritalin or other drug concoction.

In this case, rather than give “teach” an appreciative apple, we have a situation where she is being treated as a sexual object by her charges. This is pure madness. In any event, I thought of the potential liabilities and damages of all concerned if someone were to take their own life due to the embarrassment and grief, as well as other potential claims, if this were to go to court and wanted to share this with parents and teachers, so they have an idea of my findings so far.

Teens alleged to Have Taken Upskirt Photos of Female Teachers

First off, these allegations involve teen boys. This means the parents are still legally liable up to certain amounts for the torts of their children, incorrigible or not.  The facts relate that in 2013 some male students attending Serra High School in San Mateo, California are alleged to have been involved in a game of taking upskirt pictures of female teachers.

Victims of The Teacher of UpSkirt Game

One of the teachers who became a victim of the students game was Serra High School teacher 38 year-old Kimberly Bohnert. The teacher has said of the embarrassing photos that she heard one of the students describing her private parts in the hallway.

School, Child or Parent as a Defendant?

First, you have to figure out what you would sue each potential party for.  The potential defendants would be the parents, the kids and the school because each party is responsible in same way for the custody, management and control of the kids who were looking up the teacher’s skirt. This is probably not an assault, kidnapping, battery or defamation case.  What the heck is it? I would say it is intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IED”) as a starter as far as the kids go, and I cold see the parents potentially being on the hook for this in one way or another.

But I can see many other theories of recovery as against parent and child. For now I just want to see who I can sue, so let’s go with IED. As a great attorney, the first thing you will need to do is analyze where the deep pockets are to pay your claims. In cases where a child is under 4 years old,  the general rules is that children cannot be sued for negligence.  But there is some authority to suggest the child could be sued for intentional acts. (Good luck collecting the damages though.)

As a child gets older into the teens however, a few jurisdictions have been known to use the “reasonable adult” standard when determining liability in torts by teens and youngsters between 4 and 14. So if a reasonable adult would not have run A over with a car, then a teen, B, for example should not have done so either and the negligence standards of reasonableness would apply. In cases such as bullying and harassment, if a child intentionally injures a person, juries can often be instructed to identify if the defendant child is mature enough to form the actual intent to commit that harm. If this is found, then a child can definitely be sued.  So now we have established that the teens definitely can be sued here.

But who will pay? Perhaps the kids have a trust fund held for them until the child reaches 18, from their grandparents who passed away for example? Would a court allow it to be pierced? Maybe, or maybe not. In most cases, parents are vicariously liable for the bad acts of kids under a negligent supervision theory, but not always.  In California, parents are civilly liable for a “minor’s acts of willful misconduct resulting in death, personal injury or property damage.”  (See Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.1 (2005).)

So here, the facts demonstrate a willful act, IED. The problem is that there is zero insurance coverage available for willful acts, as a matter of public policy, and thus, the teacher would have to try and go after hard assets, instead of cold, hard insurance cash, which is a problem, considering the things people do to hide assets and avoid paying judgments. The attorney has to find a way to not only get liability, but also get the money.

Here, ex-teacher Bohnert is fighting back by filing a lawsuit against the high school, alleging that in her classroom in the Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, she was harassed for two years. The lawsuit goes on to claim that the school that is all male, failed to protect her and other female teachers. The teacher is seeking back pay and damages.  The school has already expelled six students and suspended six students after the incident came out.

Sexual Harassment

Individuals are protected from sexual harassment by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as a form of sexual discrimination. Title VII employment sexual harassment is overseen and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This agency administers, investigates and resolves unfair employment practices, including sexual harassment in the workplace. So here, the basis of the suit appears to be that the school failed to protect the female teacher from sexual harassment by the student body.

One can easily see how a depressed teacher could become suicidal over this.  Depression and public embarrassment is huge in cases like this. So assuming there was a suicide here or in a future case like this, it is easy to see how a survivor could sue the school for a self inflicted death, based upon these same exact facts. This is just one of many examples of a case that could destroy the life of a person.

Collecting money damages, getting into therapy and curing and correcting depression is mandatory. This teacher will have this stigma hanging over her head forever. I have not seen a copy of the complaint, but based upon my research, it appears the only defendant is the school.  The plaintiff could not sue the parents or kids for sexual harassment, since they are not employees of the school. But there are other claims such as invasion of right of privacy type theories that could be considered.

We will keep you updated. The takeaway from this should be that parents need to take more of an active role in constructing a moral base for their kids, and that public servants who run tax funded schools, as well as religious schools who should take more of an active role in protecting employees from out of control children. Boys looking up the skirts of female teachers need to understand that doing so is wrong. Taking pictures of your teacher’s privates is the epitome of moral bankruptcy. All roads lead to the parents in my view. What is your take on this?

Other Resources:

Jeremy Cloyd, Esq.  Bad Parenting Does Not Always Equal Tort Liability in California: July 2013. Plaintiff Magazine.

Walker, Nancy E., Catherine M. Brooks, and Lawrence S. Wrightsman. 1999. Children’s Rights in the United States: In Search of a National Policy. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Postman, Neil. 1982. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Delacorte.

Purdy, Laura M. 1992. In Their Best Interest? Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.

Richards, Janet Leach. 1999. “Children’s Rights v. Parents’ Rights: A Proposed Solution to the Custodial Relocation Conundrum.” New Mexico Law Review 29 (spring).

 

 

 

Suicide from Bullying Results in Wrongful Death Suit

The tragedy Baldwin’s family is experiencing from losing their son Lennon, 15 years old, cannot be minimized. The suicide of this young man has been highly publicized in the midst of several episodes of bullying done by older classmates.

When Bullying Leads to Suicide The Survivor May Be Able to Sue

In this case, the Morris County Surrogate’s Office has issued the boy’s mother, Sharon Varnelas, letters of ‘administration ad prosequendum’. In order for a person’s relative to be able to bring about a wrongful death lawsuit on the behalf of the departed person’s estate, the paperwork is required.

According to Varnelas’ filing, she feels that her son’s death was the result of a default, neglect, or wrongful act, and because of this the mother has brought about a lawsuit against the Morris School District Board of Education.

Although, James M. McCreedy, the attorney for the school district has declined to make a comment on the mother’s filing, he made the comment that everyone feels very bad about the boy’s death.
A statement was issued by McCreedy expressing sympathies to Baldwin’s family for the tragedy that is simply unspeakable. He also stated an on-going internal review of what happened on the school grounds is underway.

There are Some Questions that Arise Over this Situation:

Some bullying did occur on the school grounds. Even though Baldwin made reassurances that the bullies were only playing around with him, was the ball dropped on a student that was obviously being bullied by the staff of the school?

While the bullies admitted guilt to the bullying and were suspended from school for a few days, couldn’t more have been done, especially since it was taking place right under their nose?
While there are continued mandates being heard in this and other school districts, why are situations such as this being allowed by some staff members of the schools? How can the mandates help students like Baldwin if they are going to be ignored?

If you were bullied, and you have solutions, we welcome your comments at http://survival-over-suicide.org/

Lawsuit Settled by Former Teacher in Students Suicide Death

July 16, 2012 – In a real tragedy, a lawsuit has been settled by a former teacher at a Billings High School, over the suicide of a student.

The lawsuit filed by Auliea Hanlon against former teacher Stacey Rambold in February 2011 was settled and a confidential settlement agreement was filed in District Court in Billings Montana.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the students mother, was filed after Rambold was charged in 2008 with three counts of rape. Hanlon’s 16 year old daughter committed suicide, prior to Rambold’s case went to trial and the criminal case was settled with a deferred prosecution agreement. The agreement ordered that Rambold complete a sex offender’s treatment.

The students mother had also filed a $750,000 administrative claim with the school district, which was settled in May. The amount of the school district settlement was not disclosed.