The mounting prevalence of suicides in the United States has translated into a full-fledged, nationwide suicide crisis, impacting the lives of far too many. Even if an individual is fortunate enough never to have directly endured the tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide, they have certainly been exposed to this crisis through ever-frequent media reports of suicides. Given the widespread and detrimental nature of this crisis, it is imperative that prompt action is taken by individuals and institutions across a multitude of disciplines, the law notwithstanding. Indeed, the force of law itself implies that certain faculties possessed by courts can be uniquely conducive to the fundamental goal of suicide prevention. Specifically, courts hold the power to impose liability upon individuals for their actionable wrongdoing; when imposed, the threat of future liability is thereby realized, which presumably operates to deter future instances of similar misconduct. However, where the threat of liability is far-fetched, the law’s deterrence value is likewise diminished. As such, only a legitimate threat of liability will produce the necessary incentives for individuals to prevent suicides and suicide-inducing conduct.
The law’s state-created danger doctrine is critical because it supplies a legal basis for imposing liability upon governmental actors for certain instances of suicide. This Comment thus seeks to resolve a circuit split concerning the doctrine’s applicability to suicide. It suggests the manner in which courts should treat state-created danger claims involving suicides in light of both the doctrine’s history and modern psychiatric understandings of suicide. Ultimately, this Comment argues that where the requisite elements of a state-created danger claim have been satisfied, courts must not decline to find liability simply because the harm that ensued from the state-created danger was that of suicide rather than some harm inflicted by a third party.
The Law’s Role in Ending the Suicide Crisis: Liability for Suicide Under the State-Created Danger Doctrine,
SMU L. Rev.