The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Elizabeth Jarvis filed this diversity action on her
own behalf and as Administrator of the Estate of her late husband
Willard Jarvis ("Jarvis") against Ira Stone, Richard Brams
("Brams"), Norman Stone and Graphic Center, Inc. ("Graphic"),
alleging that defendants caused Jarvis to commit suicide.
Plaintiff's original complaint as amended (the "Complaint")
comprises three counts, seeking relief under theories of wrongful
death, intentional infliction of emotional damage and loss of
consortium. Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint or
alternatively to dismiss the prayers for punitive damages in
Counts II and III.*fn1 For the reasons stated in this memorandum
opinion and order defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint is
granted, and this action is dismissed as well.
This Court's February 11, 1981 Memorandum Opinion and Order
describes the allegations in the Complaint, which thus need not
be recounted in any detail here. Briefly, plaintiff claims that
after Jarvis' resignation from employment with Graphic and
acceptance of a position with a competing firm, Art Works, Inc.
("Art Works"), defendants allegedly "conspired to injure Jarvis'
physical and emotional health by destroying his business, his
reputation, and the Art Works business." According to the
Complaint those actions "affected Jarvis' health and emotional
stability adversely" so that on May 10 or 11, 1979 Jarvis
Plaintiff's Theories of Liability
Complaint Count I seeks compensatory damages*fn3 under the
theory that defendants wrongfully caused Jarvis' death.
Defendants assert that Count I must be dismissed because, as a
matter of law, suicide is "an intervening and independent cause
of death which . . . breaks the chain of causation, precluding
[defendants'] liability." Stasiof v. Chicago Hoist & Body Co.,
Inc., 50 Ill. App.2d 115, 122, 200 N.E.2d 88, 92 (1st Dist.
1964), aff'd sub nom. Little v. Chicago Hoist & Body Co.,
32 Ill.2d 156, 203 N.E.2d 902 (1965); Brown v. American Steel & Wire
Co., 43 Ind. App. 560, 88 N.E. 80 (1909).
In a diversity action all substantive questions must be decided
in accordance with applicable state law. Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938).
Plaintiff and defendants have expressed differing views as to the
law of which state applies here: Illinois or Indiana. This Court
need not make such a choice of law determination unless there is
a conflict of laws on the relevant issue. In re Air Crash
Disaster Near Chicago, Illinois on May 25, 1979, 644 F.2d 594,
605 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1981). Because the asserted defense is
meritorious under the law of both Illinois and Indiana, no choice
of law determination is required.
Stasiof and Brown both hold squarely that "there is no recovery
for a suicide or attempted suicide following a tortious act." 50
Ill.App.2d at 122, 200 N.E.2d at 92; 88 N.E. at 84. That
principle (the "suicide rule") is based on the rationale that
"the act of suicide is an independent intervening act which the
original tortfeasor could not have reasonably [been] expected to
foresee." 50 Ill.App.2d at 122, 200 N.E.2d at 92.
Each state's decision recognized an exception to the suicide
rule. In Stasiof the Court stated (id.):
There is an apparent exception to the rule where, as
the proximate result of an injury upon his head
caused by the negligence of another, the person
becomes insane and bereft of reason, and while in
this condition and as a result thereof he takes his
own life. His act in that case is not a voluntary
one, and therefore does not break the causal
connection between the suicide and the act which
caused the injury.
In Brown the Indiana court articulated a broader, though still
limited, exception to the rule. It stated that for the exception
to apply (88 N.E. at 85):
the evidence must be such as to warrant the jury in
finding that the decedent in taking his life acted
"without volition, under an uncontrollable impulse,
or that he did not understand the physical nature of
Stasiof and Brown are the controlling precedents in the two
states.*fn4 Under either decision Jarvis' death is plainly not
actionable. That Jarvis committed suicide is of course admitted
in the Complaint. And the circumstances leading to his suicide,
on plaintiff's own ...