The Timothy Hamlett Wrongful Death Lawsuits: Who Is Liable?
When a young person dies, it is natural for the survivors to ask what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the untimely death? Sometimes, there are clear signs of negligence. If the person died from an easily treatable illness because a doctor failed to make the right diagnosis or administer the correct treatment, there might be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the person was fatally injured in an accident at a place of business, the survivors might have grounds to sue the business owner for premises liability, that is, for failing to uphold safety standards that would prevent such a catastrophic accident. When a young person dies by suicide, it is much easier to say in retrospect what the warning signs were than to determine whose responsibility it was to recognize them and take action. After the death of 21-year-old Timothy Hamlett, his mother Katherine Frink-Hamlett has filed wrongful death lawsuits against the University of Pennsylvania, where Timothy was a student until shortly before his death, and again Robin Martin, who was Timothy’s track and field coach at the university.
The Events Leading to Timothy Hamlett’s Death
Timothy Hamlett was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and an athlete on the university’s track and field team. At the beginning of his college career, he participated in the 400m dash, but the coach Robin Martin advised him to switch to the even more demanding 800m dash. It appears that Timothy expressed concern about changing to an even more challenging track and field event, since it was already enough of a challenge to manage his academic and athletic responsibilities with the 400m dash; Timothy was on academic probation at the time he changed to the new event. Martin also encouraged Timothy to take nutritional supplements to improve his athletic performance.
Near the beginning of the fall 2014 semester, Martin called Timothy’s parents to express concern about Timothy’s mental health, but he apparently revealed few details. He said he was concerned about Timothy’s marijuana use, but by this time, Timothy had already made at least one suicide attempt. His parents allege that Martin knew about the suicide attempt but did not disclose it. At his parents’ request, Timothy decided to take a leave of absence from college, and he returned to his parents’ home. Had they known about his previous suicide attempt, they would have pursued more drastic mental health interventions than they did. Timothy disappeared from his parents’ home around Christmas, and his body was found in the Hudson River several months later. His death was ruled a suicide by drowning.
It is likely that many factors led to Timothy’s death by suicide. His final months raise many questions.
If Martin knew about Timothy’s suicide attempt, whom did he have a duty to inform? Many confidentiality agreements have exceptions for life-threatening situations.
What were the supplements Timothy was taking, and did they contribute to his worsening mental health? Dietary supplements are much less strictly regulated than prescription drugs.
The University of Pennsylvania has made news several times recently because of student suicides. What should the university do to prevent future incidents like these?
Contact Bundza & Rodriguez About Lawsuits Involving University Students
Most university students are legal adults, but universities still have a responsibility to avoid unnecessary dangers for students. Contact Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, Florida with questions about legal responsibility for the physical and mental health of students.