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Can Michigan police be sued for not preventing suicide?

In Michigan, when a fatal accident is caused by another person or entity, it is possible for the loved ones of the victim to seek to hold that party accountable with a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims allow Michigan residents who have suffered such a loss to receive money for funeral expenses, medical costs incurred before death, the loss of future income and the loss of companionship. These cases have a strict burden of proof and it is wise to seek legal counsel before proceeding with such a claim.

In a recent case in Michigan, a woman sued the Kent County Sheriff's Department for wrongful death for allegedly failing to prevent the suicide of her brother. The lawsuit, however, was dismissed by a circuit court that ruled the sheriff's department had governmental immunity. The case has now made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The case involves a man who shot himself to death in 2004, just days after his sister received a court order requiring the man to be taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation. The Kent County Sheriff's Department reportedly did not follow the order, and this is why his sister has now filed the lawsuit.

An internal investigation did find that the sheriff's department was negligent in handling the court order, but the circuit court that said the sheriff's department was immune from such a lawsuit and also found that the victim's sister did not prove the department was grossly negligent.

The woman then filed a claim in a probate court, asking the court to find the sheriff's department in contempt of court for not executing the order to place her brother under a psychiatric hold. She has asked for damages similar to that which are available in a wrongful death claim.

The sheriff's department maintains that it is immune from this type of claim, too, but now the case is being heard by the state's highest court.

This case is very complicated, but it shows that there are a number of ways that survivors of the victims of tragic events can seek to hold negligent parties legally accountable.

Source: Detroit.cbslocal.com, "Can Authorities Be Held In Contempt For Suicide?" March 6, 2013

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