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Monday, June 24, 2019

New SCOTN Opinion on Superseding and Intervening Cause in a Suicide Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in Cotten v. Wilson, No. M2016-02402-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Jun. 19, 2019).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:
In this wrongful death action, the plaintiff estate seeks to hold the defendant liable for negligently facilitating the decedent’s suicide. While staying alone in the defendant’s home, the adult decedent committed suicide by shooting herself with a gun that was unsecured in the defendant’s home. The decedent’s estate sued the defendant, alleging that he should have known the decedent was potentially suicidal and that he negligently facilitated the suicide by failing to secure the gun while the decedent was in his home. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the Court of Appeals reversed. We hold that the evidence is insufficient for a trier of fact to find that the decedent’s suicide was a reasonably foreseeable probability; consequently, the decedent’s suicide constitutes a superseding intervening event that breaks the chain of proximate causation. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Here is a link to the majority opinion:

Here is a link to Justice Lee's dissent:

NOTE: This is a must-read opinion for any lawyer wanting to delve into Tennessee's law of intervening and superseding cause, especially in a suicide case.  

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