Parton v. Jeans
Legal Malpractice Suit Relating to Suicide Rule
We help victims of professional negligence obtain their rightful compensation. Our attorneys are highly trained in this area of the law. We work hard on your case so you don't have to. Below is an example of a case we are taking to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Supreme Court of Arizona to Review Case
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In May 2012, David and Wendy Parton's daughter, Kendra, was a twenty-year-old Scottsdale Community College (SCC) student. Following a poor performance on a presentation, her teachers berated, bullied, and humiliated her. After being told by one of her teachers that she had wasted the last two years of her life in college, Kendra used a firearm to commit suicide at her home.
Attributing their daughter's suicide to bullying by an SCC instructor and an SCC administrator, the Partons (Plaintiffs) promptly sought counsel to pursue a wrongful death action against the teachers and school district. Their lawyers (Defendants) failed to commence a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired in May 2013. In April 2015, Plaintiffs sued Defendants for legal malpractice based on their alleged failure to either file a timely complaint or advise Plaintiffs of the statute of limitations.
Defendants moved for summary judgment. They asserted that Plaintiffs could not establish a legal malpractice claim because they would not have succeeded in the underlying wrongful death action on a negligence theory. Defendants argued that the SCC personnel owed no duty to the decedent and that the decedent's suicide was, as a matter of law, an unforeseeable intervening and superseding cause of her death. The trial court dismissed the case indicating that even if Defendants had filed a lawsuit in a timely manner, they would have lost because the parents of a child who committed suicide cannot sue their bullies in Arizona.
The court stated that the suicide rule is outdated, noting that it draws from society's historical view of suicide as sinful and immoral, and adding that "societal and legal views of suicide have evolved and the rule doesn't take these changes into account. ... We would not adopt the majority rule if it were within the scope of our authority to make that decision".
The case was taken to the Court of Appeals, which agreed that the wrongful death action arose out of a suicide, and Arizona Supreme Court has adopted the majority rule that suicide is always an intervening and superseding cause of death, unless it is the result of delirium or insanity. A reasonable judge or jury would have been required to follow it, which would have barred the plaintiffs' recovery. The Court of Appeals felt that the law preventing a lawsuit based on someone who committed suicide is outdated—primitive and unduly inflexible—and urged the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the decades old law.
A Petition for Review is currently pending with the Arizona Supreme Court.