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Zittrain Torts Playlist Spring 2013

Hickey v. Zezulka

Defendant arrested the plaintiff’s son for driving under the influence. After transporting the intoxicated individual to the police department and leaving him in a holding cell, the defendant did not check back on him for approximately thirty-seven minutes. When defendant returned to the cell, she discovered that the plaintiff’s son had committed suicide by hanging himself with his belt and socks. Despite a written policy to remove “personal articles” from prisoners, defendant did not remove the decedent’s socks or belt. There was also policy stating that officers who bring in detainees are responsible for checking on the detainee. Should courts recognize the doctrines of contributory and comparative fault in suicide cases? In deciding this question, should courts factor in custodial relationships between the defendant and the deceased—such as a jailer-detainee relationship?