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113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 767 (2018-2019)
Abolishing the Suicide Rule

handle is hein.journals/illlr113 and id is 807 raw text is: 



Copyright 2019 by Alex B. Long                                Printed in U.S.A.
                                                              Vol. 113, No. 4



ABOLISHING THE SUICIDE RULE


                                                          Alex B. Long


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.

AUTHOR-Doug Blaze Distinguished Professor of Law, University of
Tennessee  College of Law. Thanks  to Charles Clark and Katie Dwyer  for
their research assistance.


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