Monday, September 08, 2008

I don't claim to be guilty, but I do understand*

Hypothetically, if a lawyer sued a person, at the request of a client....

And, hypothetically, when the person received notice of the lawsuit, which he knew was coming, he became despondent....

And, hypothetically, he took the notice of the lawsuit, and went into his living room, and sat down with two liters of gin...

And never woke up....

How culpable, hypothetically, is the lawyer?

LM truth, none of this is hypothetical. It happened. And I feel wretched. This is not the first time this has happened to an attorney in my office. It is the first time it's happened to me.

I am told that I did not put the gin in his hand. I am told that the reason I was suing was far from the worst problem he was facing. I am told that his first ex-wife will now receive social security benefits for her minor children, which was good for her, since he wasn't paying his child support...

I would like to think that maybe he just intended to get rip-roaring intoxicated and deal with the situation in the morning. I'd like to think he didn't really mean to die that night. But, I don't know.

Did I kill a man?

* Leonard Cohen, The Law


Blogger La Turista said...

No, no, and no. Also, no.

What you did was help your client exercise her legal rights. And really, I doubt the guy intended to do anything but drown his sorrows. Just a really unfortunate coincidence, I'm sure.

Monday, September 08, 2008 5:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Oh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! But NO, you did not kill a man. He probably just meant to get drunk. When men committ suicide, don't they usually do it more violently? At any rate, he made his decisions, and I'm guessing some of the decisions he made in his life lead up to the lawsuit to beging with. You are not responsible for his choices.

Monday, September 08, 2008 5:40:00 PM  
Blogger Elowyn said...

Not culpable at all. Not a bit.

He probably intended to get extremely drunk, as you said above. I've seen far too many suicides (and countless attempts at same.) E's right - men go for violent methods, or get drunk/high to escape, but rarely if ever get drunk/high/OD to try to kill themselves. (They will, of course, OD on drugs inadvertently or while trying to get high-er but that's not your situation.)

In fact, I've hardly ever seen anyone of either gender try to actually kill themselves w/ alcohol - it's incredibly difficult to do (at least in a single drinking binge - obviously cirrhosis is pretty lethal.) My guess is that this fellow combined the alcohol with pills of some kind, or had an underlying medical disorder, but either way I doubt it was intentional, absent an indication to the contrary (a note, etc.)

Sorry this happened, though. Even though it's not your fault, I can imagine why you'd feel bad. Very understandable.

Monday, September 08, 2008 6:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mia's Mommy said...

NO you did not kill a man. No you are not culpable. Yes, it is tragic. And, I am sorry this has happened to you. You were acting on behalf of your client. And your client didn't kill him either. I remember when an elderly man died from hitting ME head on. I felt such guilt. It was terrible, even though it wasn't my fault, you can't help but feel like one of the pieces in the domino effect. sorry, hun!

Monday, September 08, 2008 7:54:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Oh hell no, you didn't kill a man. You know that. But I'm sure knowing it doesn't make the feeling any lighter on your heart. I'm sorry.

Monday, September 08, 2008 9:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Nicki said...

holy crap! Of course you weren't at fault and shouldn't feel that way. That said, I am suddenly feeling WAY better about my little child support abatement decision! LOL Sorry this happened, all the same.

Monday, September 08, 2008 9:55:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole - Raising Animals said...

Oh no! Gretchen, you did nothing wrong and you are not responsible. One never knows the influences we will have on those around us on any given day. A "normal" person does not drink so much that it kills him...there was clearly so much more wrong with him. Freewill makes him solely responsible for his actions.
I'm sorry that you're feeling so down about it though.

Monday, September 08, 2008 9:58:00 PM  
Blogger mam said...

I'm really sorry. So sorry.

Monday, September 08, 2008 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous laura said...

Oh Gretchen, NO, you did not do anything wrong. I know why you feel the way you do, but no, you didn't do anything wrong. At all. I am so sorry. I know how horrible this feels.

Monday, September 08, 2008 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger S. said...

NO NO NO!!!!

And what Elaine and everyone else said too.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 9:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

god no, the booze and himself did it. You do a job, that helps loads of blame.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 1:08:00 PM  
Blogger niobe said...

You really don't want to hear about all the people I've killed. Or maybe you do.

It's pretty awful, even if you've done nothing wrong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 8:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Christina said...

I'm trying hard here, but I don't see how it could be the lawyer's fault. I mean it's not like the lawyer (in this case, you) cajoled the person into suing the guy... the lawyer just did her job. And I think it's safe to say that no one kills themselves because they are getting sued - people who kill themselves do so because of long term depression, problems piling up, an inability to see a hopeful future. For all you know, Despondant Guy got a phone call or something that pushed him over the edge after he got his lawsuit notice.
From my point of view you have absolutely NO guilt in this situation, at all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

No, you are not guilty. And i am sorry.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous sarai said...

I was an ER nurse for 6 years, and I agree with Elowyn...but even if he did mean to kill himself (highly unlikely for the reasons Elowyn laid out) we as a society cannot stop compelling parents to pay child support for this reason. It was his own irresponsibility that put himself in the situation, not you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:24:00 PM  

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