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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bank Not Liable for |Florida Man’s Suicide

(CN) - A Florida bank did not cause the suicide of a man to whom it denied a loan, a state appeals court ruled.

The estate of Dr. Arthur Surloff sued Regions Bank and its senior vice president, Mark Anderson, for negligent undertaking and negligence infliction of emotional distress.

According to the lawsuit, Surloff's family members accompanied him to the bank due to his inability to "deal with complex information, especially negative financial information."

Because of this, the family members claim, they requested that the bank refrain from contacting Surloff about the loan, unless it dealt with "ministerial or document requests."

This arrangement worked in the early part of the loan process. However, Surloff mistakenly received a letter that his loan was denied, according to the lawsuit.

Surloff's estate claims that his doctor warned the bank's representatives about Surloff's "fragile condition."

However, according to the lawsuit, Anderson continued to speak with Surloff and ultimately told him that his loan was denied.

Surloff checked into a motel, ingested a large quantity of medication, and died in the hospital after three days.

His estate sued, claiming that the bank "knew or should have known that communicating with (Surloff) directly and informing him that the loan was denied would severely emotionally traumatize and distress him."

The trial court dismissed the case, agreeing with the bank that it did not owe a duty of care to Surloff.

Surloff's estate appealed, arguing that Regions Bank accepted such a duty by giving repeated assurances that it would not contact Surloff directly.

However, the Fourth District Florida Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal in an opinion written by Judge Spencer Levine.

"Regions could not assume a specific duty of care to prevent the decedent from committing suicide because the decedent was not in Regions' custody or control," he wrote on behalf of the court's three-judge panel.

"Regions simply had no ability or responsibility to protect the decedent from committing suicide," Levine added.

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