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Reviewing bullying as a cause of action for wrongful death

Most may assume that the details of a majority of wrongful death lawsuits filed both in Bozeman and throughout the rest of the U.S. describe negligent actions (or inactions) by a certain party. While that may be the case in many complaints, recent years have a seen a rise in a new type of wrongful death action: lawsuits involving bullying. As the concept of suing over bullying is still relatively new, states are often left scrambling to determine if their wrongful death statutes apply to such actions.

The website StopBullying.gov states that the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have collaborated to officially define the different types of bullying. These include:

  •          Physical abuse
  •          Verbal abuse
  •          Damage to property
  •          Relational damage

Relational bullying refers efforts to impacting a victim’s relationships or reputation.

Furthermore, the CDC and the DOE state that bullying can occur either directly or indirectly, with indirect action defined as doing this such as spreading rumors. Comparing this definition to the wrongful death statute of the state of Montana, which allows for legal action when one’s death is caused by the “wrongful act or neglect of another,” one can see where the families of bullying victims may feel justified in pursuing a claim.

The trouble is that many bullying cases involved minors. Those hoping to earn compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit may find collecting it from a child or teen to be near impossible. However, those adult parties who may have enabled a bully’s actions may qualify as having demonstrated neglect. This is likely why reported wrongful death lawsuits involving bullying typically name parents, teachers, and/or school administrators or districts as defendants. 

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