Employer Sued For Suicide Of 16-Year-Old Boy
This is a difficult one. The allegations are not standard tort claims. In this case, a farm is being sued after one of its employees, a 16-year-old boy, took one of the company’s handguns and returned home to shoot himself. The owners of the farm are now being sued.
While it can be very difficult to hold a third-party accountable for a suicide death, in this case, the farm is accused of giving a minor access to a deadly weapon. They are further accused of not securing the weapons. Hence, there is a theory of liability that can hold these defendants accountable for the boy’s suicide.
In most cases, suicide deaths are considered a matter of the volition or will of the individual taking their own life. However, because we as a society believe that suicide is wrong, we also place a duty to intervene on those in positions of power. Employers have the lowest duty of care when it comes to suicide intervention. If the boy had secured the gun from just about anywhere else, there is no way that the parents could file a lawsuit against the company. Because the gun was theirs, however, the lawsuit moves forward.
What about workers’ compensation immunity?
Employees are generally prevented from filing lawsuits against their employers, that much is true. But the small print is that the immunity only extends when there is a valid workers’ compensation policy in place. Workers’ compensation only covers workplace accidents that occur in the normal course of labor. It does not cover attacks that occur on the job or any intentional conduct. So, theirs isn’t a workers’ compensation policy that would cover these allegations. Since the policy does not apply, the immunity does not apply either and hence, the case is actionable.
In these cases, a distinction is made between an employee who is doing work for their employer and an employee who is doing something else. So, if an employee pushes another employee into a machine, that isn’t covered by the policy because that’s not their job.
Gun safety violations
Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of laws when it comes to guns and the laws it does have are confusing. In the Rittenhouse case, one of the statutes that Rittenhouse was charged under was essentially tossed out by the judge because the language was confusing and contradictory.
Suffice it to say, a rural Wisconsin farm may not have an official duty of care when it comes to locking up guns. Urban areas tend to be much more cautious about guns. In rural areas, guns are a way of life and often necessary to deal with wild animals. So, the rules may be different based on where you are. In this case, if the plaintiffs have an ordinance stating that unfettered access to guns is a violation, then the plaintiffs have a very strong case.
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