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ProximateOrLegalCause_InterveningCauses_Fuller_v_Preis

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Fuller v. Preis, NY Court of Appeals, 1974 Was the suicide an superseding act that relieved ∆ of liability? (should appellate court have dismissed the case because of the suicide?) Issue Reasoning
The question is: was the suicide foreseeable? Jury found: Accident caused irreversible impulse to destroy himself. Eventhough he had the intent, because of the uncontrollable mental impulse, it was not a voluntary act – he could not control himself. When suicide is preceded by history of trauma, brain damage, seizures, depression and despair, it is at least a fair issue to ask whether the suicide was an act of a rational and sound mind or irrational or irresistible impulse of a deranges mind evidenced by a physically damaged brain. Illogical to conclude otherwise

Rule
An act of suicide, as a matter of law, is not a superseding cause in negligence law precluding liability.

Facts
Dr .Lewis suffered a severe head injury during a car accident. Afterwards he started suffering from seizures and ultimately shot himself in the head after being heard in the bathroom: “I must do it, I must do it”

public policy permits negligent tort-feasors to be held liable for the suicide of persons who, as the result of their negligence, suffer mental disturbance destroying the will to survive.

Held Procedure P argues D argues

Reversed and remanded for new trial. (new trial because the appellate division said at any event it would have set aside the verdict???) Jury verdict of $200K. Appellate Division dismissed case (set aside jury verdict). ∏’s executor appeals.

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PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff executor appealed the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York in the First Judicial Department's dismissal of his complaint for wrongful death, which held that suicide of decedent was not proximately caused by automobile accident involving defendant, and that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to withstand dismissal. OVERVIEW: Decedent surgeon was in car accident with defendants which caused brain damage, resulting in him having multiple seizures and losing his practice. Decedent committed suicide, leaving note that he was sane and his death would give his wife money. Plaintiff executor brought wrongful death action. At jury trial, defendants were found at fault. Complaint was then dismissed by lower court and plaintiffs sought review. Court held that lower court erred in dismissing complaint and that, as a matter of law, a wrongful death action could be sustained on theory that accident was proximate cause of suicide. The issue to decide was whether accident was proximate cause of decedent's irresistible impulse to commit suicide. Plaintiffs' production of doctor's evidence, decedent's medical history, and circumstances surrounding suicide created factual issues for jury to hear. OUTCOME: Court reversed dismissal of case; plaintiff executor allowed to pursue claim where there was sufficient evidence from executor to present to jury that deterioration of decedent's mental state resulting from accident led to decedent's suicide. Court held as not dispositive other contributing factors and decedent's statement regarding his sanity.
HN2

Negligent tort-feasors may be liable for the wrongful death, by suicide, of a person injured by their negligence. More Like This Headnote Precedent of long standing establishes that public policy permits negligent tort-feasors to be held liable for the suicide of persons who, as the result of their negligence, suffer mental disturbance destroying the will to survive. More Like This Headnote An act of suicide, as a matter of law, is not a superseding cause in negligence law precluding liability. More Like This Headnote An initial tort-feasor may be liable for the wrongful acts of a third party if foreseeable. More Like This Headnote In deciding in a wrongful death case whether an accident was the proximate cause for a suicide, the only authentic issue is whether the suicide was an "irresistible impulse" caused by the accident. More Like This Headnote

HN4

HN5

HN6

HN8


				
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