This Court finds it unnecessary to fashion its own common law because, even with the benefit of the presumption against suicide, Mrs. Bateman cannot prevail. First, Dr. Brooks diagnosed Mr. Bateman as suffering from a major depression. (R. at 650.) According to Dr. Brooks, Mr. Bateman was despondent, depressed about his financial predicament, unable to sleep, nervous, and cynical about reversing his financial troubles. Id. Dr. Brooks feared that Mr. Bateman was suicidal, (R. at 675.), and noted that major depressive episodes, such as the one experienced by Mr. Bateman, are commonly accompanied by "recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt . . . ." (R. at 1114.)
Second, it seems beyond peradventure that Mr. Bateman did not accidentally fall over the balcony guardrail after suffering a dizzy spell, as plaintiff contends. Defendant's expert witness, Dr. John Fruin, an engineer specializing in pedestrian traffic, determined that "it was not possible for Mr. Bateman to have fallen over the railing due to dizziness or fainting." The height of the guardrail made it physically impossible for him to have fallen over it, (R. at 1088), even if he was walking into the guardrail at a brisk speed. (R. at 1087.) Dr. Fruin's finding is supported by tests conducted by the National Bureau of Standards tests of over-the-guardrail falls. (R. at 1091-1096.)
Furthermore, plaintiff's own expert witness, criminologist Dr. Peter DeForest, concluded that given the height of the guardrail on the balcony and Mr. Bateman's height, it was not possible for Mr. Bateman to have fallen over the guardrail unless he was standing on a raised object. (R. at 231-232.) The record, however, is bereft of evidence suggesting that any objects upon which Mr. Bateman could have stood, including the balcony furniture, were near the guardrail after the fateful incident occurred. (R. at 842, 857.)
In addition, defendant's other expert witness, Dr. Rene Testa, a professor of civil engineering at Columbia University, concluded that even given "very conservative assumptions, the wind could not have been strong enough to cause Mr. Bateman's body to impact the ground as far from the balcony as it did. There had to have been an initial horizontal velocity when the body left the balcony." (R. at 1068.) Thus, the evidence supports the unfortunate conclusion that Mr. Bateman jumped over the guardrail.
Third, plaintiff's argument that her husband could have been murdered is not supported by the record. Mrs. Bateman does not provide any evidence from which a conclusion may reasonably be drawn that her husband was the victim of foul play. There was no indication of forced entry into the Bateman's apartment. Moreover, Mrs. Bateman was the only other person in the apartment when the fateful incident occurred.
Last, the record does not support Mrs. Bateman's contention that her late husband could have "unintentionally" committed suicide due to a possible side effect from his medications. She did not proffer expert testimony that a suicide attempt was a possible side effect of Mr. Bateman's medications, (R. at 243-245, 652-657), and there is no evidence that the medications were likely to precipitate a suicide attempt. (R. at 327, 330, 333.) Therefore, this Court cannot reasonably conclude that Mr. Bateman "unintentionally" took his own life.
The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence before the Court is that Mr. Bateman committed suicide. Accordingly, Mrs. Bateman is not entitled to recover benefits from her late husband's insurance policy because the policy excluded benefits for any loss resulting from suicide.
For the reasons stated above, this Court finds in favor of LICONY. The Clerk of the Court is directed to mark this matter as closed on the docket.
New York, New York
Dated: October 11, 1995
Harold Baer, Jr.
United States District Judge
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