Can Someone Be Sued For Failing to Prevent a Suicide in Florida?
Suicide is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a family. Sometimes, suicide hotlines are unable prevent it, whether it be due to a lack of resources, adequate or competent staffing, or even the fact that a victim did not reach out to a suicide hotline in the moments leading up to taking his or her own life. In a hopeful step towards rectifying what may have been lacking in the suicide hotlines, even if just making it more accessible, the State of Florida recently instituted a new 988 hotline (like 911) for suicide prevention.
However, not all suicide is done in silence. At times, victims will tell or suggest to others their intentions. Sometimes those intentions are acted upon, but sometimes they aren’t. When the victim communicates having suicidal thoughts, there is the chance to intervene and prevent a suicide.
Can someone be held liable for failing to prevent a suicide when the victim has communicated to them the intention to take their own life? The answer is generally no. However, much of that depends on who knew of the victim’s intention and the role of the person who failed to intervene.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a doctor doesn’t have a general duty to prevent someone from committing suicide. However, the doctor must still act within the standard of care, which means that if medical indications, signs, symptoms, things the victim said or did, would indicate to a trained medical professional that a suicide may occur and the doctor does nothing to prevent it, the doctor may be held liable and sued for medical malpractice.
Custodians May be Liable
The duties imposed on those with a custodial relationship to the victim are to notice suicidal intentions and to take actions with regard to preventing the victim’s suicide. In some cases, those duties are heightened.
For example, courts have ruled that schools can be held liable when they are made aware of a student’s suicidal intentions or suicidal ideologies but fail to tell the students family about it. The same may be true of nursing homes, which are charged with the duties of caring for the elderly and preventing them from hurting themselves.
Who Causes Suicide?
Other problems arise when a defendant causes an injury or accident which then leads to a victim taking their own life. For example, if a store fails to maintain their floors and causes a victim to slip and fall, the store may be liable if the victim commits suicide after falling into a deep depression due to his or her injuries.
The question then becomes whether the defendant caused the suicide. The defendant will, predictably, argue that the victim was already suicidal, and the accident or injury had nothing to do with the suicide.
Cases involving suicide often involve deep dives into the facts to see who knew what, what the victim did or said to other people, and what the relationship was between the Defendant and the victim.
Did someone fail to help a victim to prevent their suicide, or did a person cause your family member to be injured and subsequently take his or her own life? Call the Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Rosen Injury Law today for help.
CITE FOR MED MAL CASE: Chirillo v. Granicz, 199 So. 3d 246 (Fla. 2016).