Blame for Man's Suicide May Fall to Landlord
(CN) - A company that demolished a building around the family who refused to leave must face claims that its actions drove the husband to suicide, an Illinois appeals court ruled.
It had only been 20 days since Maria Turcios and Nelson Caceres signed a one-year lease for their Park City apartment when the couple received an eviction notice on May 10, 2011, from The DeBruler Co.
DeBruler allegedly pressured the couple and their children to move out, stating that the building would be demolished on June 10, 2011.
Juan Berrera, a case manager at Catholic Charities, noted that the couple was depressed, anxious and angry over the situation. They did not accept DeBruler's offer to move to a new unit for 30 days, rent free.
Turcios claimed in her lawsuit that DeBruler began to demolish the building around them on June 10, tearing into the outside walls and destroying the apartments around the family's unit.
Five days later, Nelson Caceres committed suicide.
"Please forgive me my daughters and you also Carmen," he wrote. "Sell the land and build a house."
As the rest of the family moved out, "an enormous rainstorm occurred and ruined most of Maria's family's belongings," according to the complaint. The widow, an immigrant from Honduras who is not fluent in English, meanwhile fell "into a deep depression."
She sued DeBruler for wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful eviction, breach of contract and survivorship.
A Lake County judge ruled for DeBruler, however, stating that in Illinois "there is no cause of action for wrongful death via suicide."
The Illinois Appellate Court's Second District disagreed last week.
"We will not extend to intentional torts the bar on recovery based on a victim's suicide that exists in negligence cases," Judge Donald Hudson wrote for a three-member panel.
DeBruler cannot escape liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress that leads to suicide, the court found, remanding the case to the trial court.
"A plaintiff must still establish that a defendant engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct that is so extreme as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and be regarded as intolerable in a civilized community," Hudson wrote.