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Preteen Suicide Lawsuit Limited to Bullies, Not Cement Factory

Suicide is a contentious and tragic topic. Regardless of varying opinions on personal choice, it is clear that harassment that encourages suicide or bullies young people constitutes wrongdoing. It is also clear that companies should maintain safe grounds that do not present a danger to young people. Unfortunately for the grieving family of a girl lost to suicide, their lawsuit can now only proceed against the bullies.

Suing the School and the Bullies

On September 9, 2013, a 12-year-old girl committed suicide in Lakeland, Florida, by jumping from an abandoned cement silo. Several lawsuits have spawned from her grieving family’s attempts to find some measure of justice and compensation from the responsible parties. In that regard, the lawsuit initially sued the school board and a classmate of the deceased girl. The lawsuit also accused the minor of bullying and harassment, and the school board of failing to provide a safe learning environment for the 12-year-old.

Criminal charges were also filed against the bullies, which were eventually dropped. To complicate matters, one of the alleged bullies has now filed a lawsuit against the Polk County Sheriff’s Office claiming that the arrest of the younger bully on felony aggravated stalking charges was a publicity stunt for media attention. The suit claims that the police officers made the arrests without any legal or factual basis, and that they made misrepresentations to the press. This suit is still pending.

Suing the Cement Company

The lawsuit also alleged that the cement company allowed unrestricted access to the dangerous silo by allowing its fence to fall into disrepair. Similarly, it claimed that the cement company should have maintained safer grounds. Generally, under Florida’s attractive nuisance doctrine, a property owner can be liable even for injuries to trespassers where: (1) the area was a place children were likely to trespass, (2) the condition on the property could cause harm to children, (3) the young children are incapable of realizing the risk due to their age, (4) the danger to children is outweighed by the high expense that would be required to eliminate the danger, and (5) the landowner failed to use reasonable care to protect potential child trespassers. Generally, under this doctrine, it is possible to successfully sue irresponsible landowners who allow children to trespass into dangerous territory.

In this case, however, the deceased child’s grieving family was not permitted to continue their suit against the cement company. Recently, a new development has occurred in this matter. A judge has determined that the cement company was not at fault for the suicide, likely through application of the above or similar legal test. Unfortunately, this means that the cement company will not be held liable for providing the dangerous tool used in the suicide.

Nevertheless, the case will soon proceed to mediation with the school board, which still remains as a defendant in the lawsuit. Whether you were injured due to harassment or improperly maintained land, contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney Scott Newmark today for a consultation.

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