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Can Family Sue After Bridge Suicide?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 30, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lael Feldman, a singer who performed under the name Lael Summer, leapt to her death from New York City's George Washington Bridge last August. In September, the Port Authority of New York began installing the suicide barriers on the bridge. But those measures should've been taken earlier, according to a $100 million lawsuit filed by Feldman's parents.

The bridge is a "suicide magnet" according to the lawsuit, so will the Port Authority be liable for Feldman's suicide?

Failed to Exercise Reasonable Care

According to the suit, the first suicide from the George Washington Bridge happened just a week after it opened in October 1931. "In the seven years leading up to 2016," the lawsuit claims, "approximately 93 people perished by jumping from the walkways of the bridge." And suicide attempts were occurring once every 3.5 days that year. At least 15 people leapt to their deaths in 2017, including five others in the same five-week span when Feldman leapt to her death.

During that time, and before, the Port Authority "failed to exercise reasonable care in constructing, operating, and maintaining the George Washington Bridge, [which] lacked adequate means restriction to prevent jumping suicides from its walkways," according to Isaac Feldman and Marla Mase. They are asking for $20 million in damages for four separate causes of action and an additional $20 million in punitive damages, totaling $100 million, claiming "that it was entirely feasible to [install suicide prevention fencing] many years before" the Port Authority finally did after Lael's death last year.

Loss and Liability

Figuring out who is liable when someone commits suicide can be difficult. Wrongful death claims following a suicide are based on the argument that the person would not have killed themselves but for the acts of the defendant. While some of those claims have been successful in cases of school bullying or drug side effects, they are much harder to prove against property owners.

If a loved one has committed suicide and you think it is someone else's fault, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you.

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