Brown University Sued for Negligence in Suicide Case

Opening arguments began Wednesday in a civil suit brought against Brown University by the mother of a student who committed suicide in 1990.

Daniel Shuster's family claims Brown was negligent when they referred Shuster to a psychologist who was not an expert in depression and could not prescribe any medication.

On Tuesday, Judge Judith C. Savage denied a motion from Brown's lawyers for a six-month continuance of the trial.


Brown's lawyers claimed jurors would be biased after the Providence Journal published an in-depth article about Shuster and the circumstances surrounding his death.

Susan Klain, Shuster's mother, filed a lawsuit against Brown and Shuster's therapist Mark Solomon in 1993. The case went to trial in 1996, but the judge ruled in Brown's favor because of insufficient evidence.

The family settled out of court with Solomon in 1996 but has refused to do so with Brown.

According to the Brown Daily Herald, Daniel Shuster's brother David called the offer "insulting" and said the goal of the lawsuit was to hold the school accountable for not adequately helping his brother, not to win money.

"Klein and the rest of Dan's family hope that the lawsuit will draw attention to the fact that depression is a treatable condition and that universities have an obligation to respond accordingly when students seek out help," David Shuster said in a statement.

Explaining her reasons for bringing the suit, Klein told the Herald Tuesday that "acting in loco parentis, Brown has an obligation 'to take care of you.'"

Daniel Shuster entered Brown in 1987 and sought counseling for depression from Brown University Psychological Services in his first semester. The death of Shuster's roommate and his roommate's girlfriend in a December 1987 car crash soon added to his mental health problems.

Since Brown's counselors could only provide short-term treatment, Psychological Services Director Ferdinand Jones referred Shuster to four therapists.

According to his brother, Daniel Shuster ended up seeing a therapist who specialized in eating disorders.

Shuster saw Solomon for two years until December 1989. In March 1990, Shuster shot himself and was found dead in his apartment with a suicide note.

After the family lost the first suit against Brown, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the judge had made a mistake and that the case should be brought before a jury.

Jury selection took place on Tuesday at the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Brown officials declined comment.

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