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Could school, city have prevented student suicides?

Ithaca is a beautiful city and the Cornell campus has great views of its lovely gorges. Those gorges, however, have recently become the subject of a premises liability lawsuit following a Cornell student’s death. Though the student did commit suicide, the young man’s parents are alleging that both the school and the city were negligent in not doing more to prevent people from jumping or falling off of the bridges crossing the gorges.

While many people think of premises liability lawsuits as slip-and-fall cases, that is not the only kind of injury for which a plaintiff can collect. Any time someone is injured on a piece of property because of another’s negligence, he or she can file a premises liability lawsuit. Typically, this is seen when a person falls inside or outside of a store, but it can cover things like a dog bite at a private residence, an unmarked hole on a piece of property, an elevator injury, or, as in this case, a student’s suicide.

The young man’s parents are suing both Cornell and the city of Ithaca for not doing more to prevent “jumpers.” It is not as if this student’s suicide was the first. In a span of 20 years from 1990 to 2010, 27 people died after jumping into Cornell’s gorges. In the 2009-2010 school year alone there were six suicides. This young man committed suicide in February 2010.

The bridge from which the young man jumped was renovated in 2006 and 2007, but it was not until the end of the 2009-2010 school year that the school installed netting beneath the bridges and higher fences on the bridges. Since that time, there have been no suicides by jumping.

Source: New York Law Journal, “Cornell, Ithaca Face Trial Over Student’s Suicide,” Joel Stashenko, March 26, 2014

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