In Simon v. Theriot, 127 So.3d. 1057, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s ruling granting an Exception of No Cause of Action dismissing the claims asserted by the survivors of a suicide victim. A lawsuit for wrongful death was asserted by the survivors of decedent. On October 8, 2010, the decedent dropped off his girlfriend at her home, and shortly thereafter a phone call was placed to 9-1-1 Emergency to file a complaint against him. St. Martin City Police and St. Martin Sheriff units were dispatched to the scene and found decedent occupying the vehicle, barricaded inside with a weapon. Decedent had placed phone calls to family members indicating his intent to kill himself. Over the next several hours, he was counseled by family members by cell phone to not shoot himself and to await the arrival of his father at the crisis scene. A crisis negotiator with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office was in control of negotiations with decedent at the scene. The crisis negotiator prohibited the family members from having any additional communications with him so as not to interfere with his handling of the negotiations. Decedent continued to call family members, and the phone calls went unanswered. Decedent subsequently shot and killed himself while in his own vehicle. Suit was filed by the surviving family members alleging negligence against law enforcement in the manner in which the crisis negotiations were conducted. The law enforcement defendants filed an Exception of No Cause of Action claiming that the survivors failed to state a legal cause of action against them. The trial court granted the Exception of No Cause of Action in favor of the defendant law enforcement agency, and an appeal was taken to the Third Circuit.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court finding that the facts alleged in the Petition for Damages did not impose a duty upon the sheriff’s deputies. The Court of Appeal noted the deputies were alleged to have been confronted with an armed, barricaded, and suicidal individual who was never in custody during the encounter. Under these circumstances, no duty arose on the part of the sheriff or his deputies to protect this individual. Further, the Court of Appeal found that Louisiana law does not impose a duty on a sheriff to allow family members to participate in crisis negotiations to assure the survival of a suicidal man. Specifically, the Court of Appeal noted that the suicide victim was not in police custody at the time of incident, distinguishing the factual scenario from other Louisiana jurisprudence, and found that no duty existed.
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