I am very sorry for your loss. My condolences go out to you and your family. If you really believe that this was at the cause of someone else, consult with a local attorney and explore your options. Good luck.
Randy Sevenish is licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana. The laws of your jurisdiction may differ and thus this answer is for informational and educational purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice. Since all facts are not addressed in the question, this answer could change depending on other significant and important facts. This answer in no way constitutes an attorney-client relationship. Please speak with a local attorney to discuss your potential legal issue.
Please accept my heartfelt sympathies for your family's tragic loss. Suicide is a desperate act committed out of pain and anger that leaves much hurting in its wake. It sounds as if your daughter is already aware of what happened. Most likely, everyone involved will suffer far more punishment than the legal system could hand out.
Although I am not experienced in DC law, generally speaking, wrongful death cases balance the fault of the person who died against the fault of others. In the case of a suicide, which was an intentional act, it is very rare that such a case can actually be won, because the act of the deceased was the last decisive act, and the deceased had a clear opportunity to prevent the suicide.
That being said, you could contact a local attorney for more specific advice. You don't say whether your daughter went through with the wedding. However, it seems like what your family really needs is more healing. Talking to your pastor may help, but it is doubtful that a lawsuit in such circumstances would promote healing.
The opinions expressed in this answer are meant for educational and public service purposes. Requesting general information about the law on a public website should never be a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney who can give specific legal advice tailored to the facts of an individual case. Please be aware that Robert Hogan is licensed only in Texas and New Mexico, and that any opinions given are not meant to apply outside of these states. No attorney-client relationship is intended by answering questions or emails.
People can be very mean and disrespectful. That those individuals were so thoughtless and self-centered as to cause your wife to go into this terrible tailspin that led to her suicide is reprehensible to be sure. I am saddened that some people are so wrapped up in themselves that they cannot see how harmful their actions and words can be to others. I believe your case would be very difficult, at best, to win, however.
Do not delay in seeing and discussing the potentials with an experienced practitioner in the area the suit would be brought (where this all took place). Sitting down and talking with a good lawyer should give you clarity and the answers you seek.
In Hedgepath v. Whitman Walker Clinic, No. 07-CV-158 (D.C. June 30, 2011), the D.C. Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, held that the plaintiff, who was negligently informed by a doctor at the Whitman Walker Clinic that he was HIV positive, when in fact he was not, could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress, even though the alleged negligence did not place the plaintiff within a "zone of physical danger." The Court reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
The Court recognized a duty to avoid negligent infliction of serious emotional distress will be recognized only where the defendant has an obligation to care for the plaintiff's emotional well-being or the plaintiff's emotional well-being is necessarily implicated by the nature of the defendant's undertaking to or relationship with the plaintiff, and serious emotional distress is especially likely to be caused by the defendant's negligence.
The new rule does not replace the prior "zone of danger" rule, but is a supplement to it. The Court quoted Restatement (Third) of Torts, sec. 46, with approval:
§ 46 Negligent Conduct Directly Inflicting Emotional Disturbance on Another
An actor whose negligent conduct causes serious emotional
disturbance to another is subject to liability to the other if the
(a) places the other in immediate danger of bodily harm and the
emotional disturbance results from the danger; or
(b) occurs in the course of specified categories of activities,
undertakings, or relationships in which negligent conduct is
especially likely to cause serious emotional disturbance.
To sum up, emotional distress damages can be recovered in a variety of cases.
•District of Columbia courts routinely allow recovery for pain and suffering as parasitic damages when the plaintiff's emotional distress is caused by the defendant's invasion of a legally-protected interest, such as freedom from physical injury.
•Damages for emotion distress are also awarded as part of compensation for violation of statutory and common law rights that result in foreseeable emotional distress.
•A plaintiff may recover for loss of consortium that results from negligent conduct toward his or her spouse, even where the spouse was not physically injured and the plaintiff's injuries are purely emotional.
•The "zone of physical danger" rule allows a plaintiff to recover for mental distress if the defendant's actions caused the plaintiff to be "in danger of physical injury", and if, as a result, the plaintiff "feared for his own safety."
•Under the new rule, a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress from a defendant who has breached a duty to avoid negligent infliction of serious emotional distress based on an obligation to care for the plaintiff's emotional well-being or where the plaintiff's emotional well-being is necessarily implicated by the nature of the defendant's undertaking to or relationship with the plaintiff, and serious emotional distress is likely to be caused by the defendant's negligence.
•A plaintiff can also recover damages for emotional distress that results from a defendant's intentional or reckless conduct that is "extreme and outrageous."
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