Suicide and Foreseeability


Bryant v. Carpenter, [Ms. 1180843, Sept. 18, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bryan, J., concur; Shaw and Mendheim, JJ., concur in the result) affirms a summary judgment entered by the Greene Circuit Court in favor of two jail employees who were alleged to have been negligent in failing to prevent an inmate’s suicide.

The Court reiterates that potential liability for prevention of inmate suicides is based upon the foreseeability that the inmate would attempt to do so:

In Popham v. City of Talladega, 582 So. 2d 541, 543 (Ala. 1991), the Court explained the circumstances under which a party might bear liability for such a suicide:

“The controlling factor in determining whether there may be a recovery for a failure to prevent a suicide is whether the defendants reasonably should have anticipated that the deceased would attempt to harm himself. Annot., 11 A.L.R.2d 751, 782-92 (1950). In Keebler v. Winfield Carraway Hospital, 531 So. 2d 841 (Ala. 1988), this Court held ‘that foreseeability of a decedent’s suicide is legally sufficient only if the deceased had a history of suicidal proclivities, or manifested suicidal proclivities in the presence of the defendant, or was admitted to the facility of the defendant because of a suicide attempt.’ Keeton v. Fayette County, 558 So. 2d 884, 887 (Ala. 1989).”

See also City of Crossville v. Haynes, 925 So. 2d 944, 951 (Ala. 2005) (“Th[e] test of foreseeability [set forth in Popham] remains the law applicable today in determining whether a duty to prevent a suicide exists.”).

Ms. *9. The Court found no evidence from which the jail employees reasonably should have anticipated that the inmate would attempt to harm himself while he was incarcerated in the Greene County jail, so the summary judgment in favor of the jail employees was due to be affirmed.

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