Elizabeth Marie Kennedy, et al. v. United States of America

Judge rules in favor of defense.
Defense retained expert: Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn


None of the facts known (or that should have been know) by Dr. Diebold and the other medical personnel at the V.A. held any clue that Kennedy would take his own life on February 22, 1994. Unlike the cases cited by the plaintiffs in which the decendent's suicide was found to be foreseeable, see, e.g., Dinnerstein v. United States, 486 F. 2d 34 (2nd Cir. 1973) (decendents' extensive history of mental depression and suicidal tendencies provided notice of need for heightened supervision); Lucy Webb Hayes National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries v. Perotti, 419 F. 2d 704 (D.D.C. 1969) (suicide of psychiatric patient who had previously been diagnosed as suicidal and who suffered from 'paranoid depression,' apathy, slowness of speech, delusions of persecution, and depression on day of suicide was foreseeable), nothing known or that should have been known by Dr. Diebold or the other VA personnel should have sent up a red flag that Kennedy posed a danger to himself. As the defendant's reply suggests, Dr. Diebold did not have a crystal ball to foresee that sending Kennedy home (as he insisted) would result in his act of suicide.

Because Kennedy's suicide was not a foreseeable consequence of the defendant's employees' acts, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment. [Case No. 96-4032-SAC, In the United States District Court for the District of Kansas]