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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tort Law and Suicide

I want to recommend a really fine article just published in Northwestern Law Review by Alex Long. Great articles on tort doctrine are rare birds. Here is the Abstract:

Suicide is increasingly recognized as a public health issue. There are over 40,000 suicides a year in the U.S., making suicide the tenth-leading cause of death in the country. But societal attitudes on the subject remain decidedly mixed. Suicide is often closely linked to mental illness, a condition that continues to involve stigma and often triggers irrational fears and misunderstanding. For many, suicide remains an immoral act that flies in the face of strongly held religious principles. In some ways, tort law’s treatment of suicide mirrors the conflicting societal views regarding suicide. Tort law has long been reluctant to permit recovery in a wrongful death action from a defendant who is alleged to have caused the suicide of the decedent. In many instances, courts apply a strict rule of causation in suicide cases that has actually been dubbed “the suicide rule” in one jurisdiction. While reluctance to assign liability to defendants whose actions are alleged to have resulted in suicide still remains the norm in negligence cases, there has been a slight trend among court decisions away from singling out suicide cases for special treatment and toward an analytical framework that more closely follows traditional tort law principles. This Article argues that this trend is to be encouraged and that it is time for courts to largely abandon the special rules that have developed in suicide cases that treat suicide as a superseding cause of a decedent’s death. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on March 12, 2019 at 08:30 PM | Permalink


Superbly researched article.
One fact invites emphasis: the public health impact of suicide is noteworthy, as mentioned. Tort law - with its deterrent effect - may provide a valuable contribution to helping curtail the burgeoning prevalence. Saddling those who might be held liable with a greater role in assisting prevention might invite greater exchange of ideas and more research into developing and sharing preventative measures.
Thanks for the opportunity to read this fascinating work.
Barbara Pfeffer Billauer JD MA PhD

Posted by: Barbara Pfeffer Billauer | Mar 14, 2019 4:29:06 PM


Your comment was irrelevant to anything in the post. Try to keep up next time, even if it means keeping your biases to yourself.

Posted by: lame | Mar 13, 2019 8:11:47 PM

"For many, suicide remains an immoral act that flies in the face of strongly held religious principles."

For me, having strongly held religious principles represents a greater problem for society than suicide.

Posted by: Jimbino | Mar 13, 2019 5:58:39 PM

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