Maryland Wrongful Death: Jury Orders Man to Pay $50,000 for Failing to Prevent Stepson’s Suicide

In Baltimore Circuit Court, a jury has awarded Joseph Montes, the father of 16-year-old Brian Montes, $50,000 for his suicide death. The defendant in this Maryland wrongful death lawsuit is Frank Eisler, the boy’s stepfather.

Brian killed himself on April 11, 2005. He shot himself in the head with a 9mm gun. Even as a young boy, Brian suffered from depression and displayed a suicidal streak. His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother and Eisler, who kept 11 guns in their home.

Despite being aware of Brian’s suicidal streak, Eisler kept one gun in an unlocked drawer with its clip located nearby. A number of days after overdosing on his stepfather’s painkillers, Brian killed himself.

Initially, Montes had sought a public apology from Eisler that would warn others about the dangers of keeping guns in houses where children live. Eisler refused and the Maryland wrongful death lawsuit wound up in civil court. The jury took a little over an hour to decide that Eisler was negligent and that his negligence resulted in Brian’s wrongful death.

Eisler’s attorney says he finds the jury’s verdict “perplexing” because in Maryland personal injury recovery is not allowed if the victim contributed to the injury.

Maryland Wrongful Death

Maryland’s contributory negligence standard generally prevents plaintiffs from obtaining any financial recovery if the victim contributed in any way to his injuries or death. However, there is also the “last clear chance” doctrine. Even if a victim’s negligence contributed to the injury, a defendant who could have or should have been able to avoid hurting the victim yet neglected to do so could still be held liable for Maryland personal injury or wrongful death.

Jury awards dad $50K for teen’s suicide, MD Daily Record, August 31, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Last Clear Chance Doctrine, Legal Dictionary
Maryland, Wrongful Death, (PDF)

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