An Oregon audience at open mic night were shocked after applauding what they thought was performance art of a teen pretending to kill himself at the Strictly Organic Coffee Company. It was not a performance, but a suicide. After playing a song called “Sorry For All The Mess,” Kipp Rusty Walker repeatedly stabbed himself in the chest with a six-inch knife.
The suicide has raised questions of his treatment by state psychiatric authorities.
One of Walker’s friends said that he had been planning to kill himself in a public place for some time: “It was almost like he wanted to prove a point, like there’s no point in being scared of death because it’s going to happen to us anyway.” The friend reportedly told Walker’s parents who had him committed St Charles Medical Centre in Bend. The friend is quoted as saying
“I actually told him, I was like, ‘Dude, this is going to mess a lot of people up.'”
Beyond the tragedy itself, there is a question of the responsibility of state officials and the coffee shop. I believe the shop is not likely to face liability -assuming (as appears to be the case) that they had no reason to expect such an unforeseeable act. It would be hard to establish the basis for a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim as an audience member.
The hospital could be more vulnerable if a reasonable doctor would not have released Walker. However, again, such acts are hard to predict and make generally for a poor basis for legal action.
From a public policy perspective, however, there are increasing complaints over the treatment (and release) of potentially violent individuals. It is a difficult balance for a state. We have moved away from the large-scale institutionalization of the mentally ill.
After the Supreme Court handed down its decision in O’Connor v. Donaldson in 1975, states were ordered that they cannot involuntarily hold a person who is not imminently a danger to himself or others and able to survive on his own. That decision ended abuses across the country and allowed mentally disabled individuals to have functional lives. In any such case, there can be problems particularly if an individual does not receive or take necessary medication.
Source: Daily Mail