Parents Blame Ohio College in Son’s Suicide

May 16, 2012

A central Ohio couple is pressing legal action against a university over the 2008 suicide of their son, saying campus police could have prevented it.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the wrongful-death lawsuit charges that Wright State University campus officers failed in their duty to protect the student from harm. The suit filed by Michael and Lisa Conner of Plain City is before the Ohio Court of Claims, the Columbus-based court that hears civil claims against the state, its agencies and employees.

They say one of their son Nathan’s roommates had called campus police after Nathan threatened to kill himself. Court documents show officers responded, but concluded that he wasn’t suicidal.

Soon after they left, the 20-year-old student wrote a suicide note, placed a bag over his head, and inhaled helium until he died.

Wright State denies wrongdoing, says officers acted appropriately, and that Conner was responsible for his own death.

The Conners say police were negligent and “knew of a foreseeable risk of harm.” The lawsuit says two officers who responded to Conner’s apartment had been there two months earlier after he attempted to kill himself with an overdose of medication.

Their attorney says officers didn’t notify the campus wellness center when responding to a mental-health crisis, as policy dictated.

“We understand that Nathan had an issue he was dealing with, but that’s why the policy is in place,” said Paul-Michael La Fayette, a Columbus attorney.

The Ohio attorney general’s office argues on the university’s behalf that Conner didn’t appear suicidal and denied any intent to harm himself. Wright State didn’t cause the death, which came from Conner’s “own intentional actions,” the university’s response states.

It says according to his suicide note, Conner decided to kill himself after the officers left because his roommates had called the police.

The university and its officers also claim immunity from liability because they were engaged in public duties.

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