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Family can sue over man’s suicide after crash

Carpenter’s injuries left him depressed, unable to work, family alleges

The widow and children of a man who killed himself more than two years after sustaining multiple but not life-threatening injuries in an Elkton truck collision can pursue a $2 million wrongful-death claim against the company that owned the other vehicle, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore has ruled.

Judge Ellen L. Hollander said it will be for a jury to decide if the June 2010 crash was a proximate cause of Joseph R. Young’s September 2012 suicide at age 45.

In letting the claim proceed to trial, Hollander rejected Piedmont, S.C.-based Industrial Transport Services LLC’s argument that a car collision cannot be the proximate cause of a suicide.

Psychologist Janet Anderson, the family’s expert, testified that Young “had an irresistible impulse when he experienced a psychotic break with reality, which in turn caused his suicide, all as a direct result of the injuries he sustained from the accident of June 16, 2010.”

By contrast, the company pointed primarily to inconsistences in Anderson’s current testimony and what she said after meeting with Young four months before his death, Hollander said.

“A jury may well conclude that Dr. Anderson is not credible because of inconsistencies, or that her deposition testimony undermines her conclusion that Mr. Young’s suicide resulted from insanity or an ‘irresistible impulse,’ rather than from other causes, including Mr. Young’s ongoing depression,” Hollander wrote in a memorandum opinion filed last week.

“Nevertheless, at this stage, defendant has not established how Dr. Anderson’s statements, as a matter of law, bar her from opining that Mr. Young suffered from insanity or an ‘irresistible impulse’ at the time of his suicide,” Hollander wrote. “To the extent defendant identifies any inconsistency between Dr. Anderson’s opinions as of May 2012 and those following Mr. Young’s suicide, that subject would be an appropriate basis for cross-examination [at trial].”

The family’s attorney, Daniel J. Earnshaw, said Hollander properly concluded that Maryland recognizes a vehicle crash can proximately cause a suicide.

Young suffered “a non-breaking sequence of devastating events following the accident,” said Earnshaw, an Edgewood solo practitioner. Hollander’s ruling lets a jury hear expert testimony and determine if Young’s suicide was part of that sequence, the attorney added.

“You let the people from the community sit there and decide, ‘Is this expert credible?’” Earnshaw said. “This is the way our system is supposed to work.”

The company’s attorneys, Jeffrey R. DeCaro and James S. Liskow, did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment Tuesday. They are with DeCaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis LLP in Bowie.

‘Serious depression’

Young was driving a Dodge Ram the night of the accident and was stopped at a traffic light on westbound Pulaski Highway at Whitehall Road. At 9:37 p.m., a speeding 18-wheel tractor trailer struck his vehicle from behind, according to the lawsuit.

Paramedics rushed Young to Christiana hospital in Elkton, where he was treated for a head injury, a deformed left elbow and chest pain.

Young, unable to return to work, was fired from his carpentry job in December 2010. He underwent extensive surgery on his elbow and spine in February 2011 and October 2011, respectively.

In May 2012, Young met with Anderson, who counsels people in depression.

Young told the psychologist of his suicidal depression and that his wife and two daughters had moved to Florida to escape his frequent outbursts. Young said his “whole family has been destroyed” due to the collision and related lost income, according to court papers.

Anderson advised Young to seek psychotherapy for his “very serious depression, which is suicidal at times,” the papers stated.

Young killed himself with alcohol and pills on Sept. 6, 2012, after a yelling match with his older daughter, a teenager who had recently returned with her mother and sister to the family’s Maryland home.

In a suicide note, he called himself a “loser,” Hollander noted.

On Nov. 15, 2012, the widow, Jamie Young, filed suit against Industrial Transport in Cecil County Circuit Court on behalf of herself, her daughters and her late husband’s estate.

The company successfully moved on Dec. 14, 2012, to have the case transferred to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore based on diversity of citizenship with the family and an amount in controversy exceeding $75,000.

The case is Young v. Industrial Transport Services LLC, No. 1:12-cv-03657-ELH.