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Wrongful Death Cases Based Upon Suicide: K & W Legal Explains

by on May 30, 2013

Suicide is ranked as high as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States by the National Safety Council (13th worldwide), with more than one million people committing suicide each year worldwide.

Because suicide is far-reaching, complex, and sometimes perplexing for those left behind, our wrongful death attorneys at K & W Legal want to help you better understand this situation in case this may have recently occurred to one of your family members or loved ones.

Any number of factors might contribute to a person taking their own life, including mental health and/or other social problems.  In some cases it is likely impossible to know why a particular person chose to take their own life, and in other cases a person may have left behind a note or some indication as to why they chose to end their life.  

In the context of a lawsuit for negligence where the defendant is blamed for the suicide death of an individual based on prior negligence, the answer on how to respond and how to dissect the concept of suicide might seem a daunting task.

Here are three examples of wrongful death based upon suicide you may want to read about if you think you may have a similar wrongful death claim:

1) To recover for negligence in Georgia, proof of causation is required.   

In a recent case (Morris v. Baxter, 225 Ga. App. 186 (483 S.E.2d 650) (1997)), the court of appeals held that “[n]egligence is not actionable unless it is the proximate cause of the injury, [and a] wrongdoer is not responsible for a consequence which is merely possible, according to occasional experience, but only for a consequence which is probable, according to ordinary and usual experience.”

In other words, this rule is based in fairness, because “negligence is predicated on what should have been anticipated rather than on what happened.”

The inquiry is “not whether a defendant’s conduct constituted a cause in fact of an injury, but rather whether the causal connection between the conduct and the injury is too remote for the law to countenance a recovery.”

 2) Generally, Suicide Is An Unforeseeable Event In The Chain of Causation.

In Georgia, “[g]enerally, suicide is an unforeseeable intervening cause of death which absolves the tortfeasor of liability (Appling v. Jones, 115 Ga. App. 301, 303 (1) (154 S.E.2d 406) (1967)).” Although, “there is an exception to this general rule:  Where the tortfeasor’s wrongful act causes the injured party to kill himself during a rage or frenzy, or in response to an uncontrollable impulse, the wrongful act is considered to be the proximate cause of the suicide.”

3) There Can be a Causal Link Between Prescribed Medication and Suicide.

Lately, more and more drugs seem to advertise that one side effect may be suicidal thoughts or actions.  Thus, the intersection of malpractice and these medications can open the door to liability for resulting suicides. That was what happened in a recent case (Romona L. Floyd, Individually, as Surviving Parent of Jessica Ann Ray, deceased, and as Administratrix of the Estate of Jessica Ann Ray, deceased v. United States of America, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125247 (2010)).

In that case, the decedent, a 15-year-old female, received a prescription for Prozac when it was not indicated or appropriate. A nurse practitioner prescribed the medication during a follow-up visit from the emergency room at a clinic in Hartwell, Georgia while the decedent had been experiencing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The nurse wrote the prescription on a prescription pad that had been pre-signed by the supervising doctor, and in her notes for that visit, the nurse wrote “depression – Prozac.” After ingesting the Prozac, the decedent hanged herself, which resulted in a devastating brain injury that ultimately caused her death.

If an incident similar to one of these three documented cases has happened to someone close to you, our attorneys at K&W Legal can help provide the legal guidance you need to better understand your situation.

As experienced professionals in the wrongful death legal field, we can offer you the one-on-one support to help you through the process of your potential claim, each and every step of the way.

Contact K&W Legal today at: (404)835-8080. We will fight for YOU.

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