In Massachusetts, whether a party has a duty to prevent harm depends, in part, on the relationship between the injured person and the party, but in other instances, the duty arises out of a party’s knowledge of the risk of harm. For example, universities do not have a general duty to protect students from self-harm. A university may have a duty, however, to prevent a student from committing suicide in certain instances. Recently, the Superior Court of Massachusetts elucidated when a university may be deemed negligent for failing to prevent a student from committing suicide. If you or your loved one suffered harm because of the negligent acts or failure to act of another party, it is advisable to speak with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your potential causes of action.
Allegedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was enrolled at the defendant university in Boston. In April of his freshman year, he attempted suicide. The defendant university learned of the decedent’s attempt and transferred him to a hospital. After he was discharged, he met with the defendant university employee about his treatment going forward. The decedent then entered into a contract with the Dean of Freshman Students, which stated that the decedent would be permitted to remain on campus if he engaged in treatment. The decedent met with the defendant university employee on two occasions, where he expressed skepticism over the treatment. He was not in treatment from May to September, however. In September, the decedent committed suicide.
It is reported that the decedent’s father filed a lawsuit against the university and several individuals employed by the university, asserting that they had a duty to take measures to prevent the decedent from committing self-harm and that the duty was breached. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Upon review, the court denied the motion.