Student Suicide On-Campus: Tort Liability of Canadian Universities and Determining a Duty of Care

  • Shailaja Nadarajah


Suicide is a devastating issue that is increasingly affecting post-secondary students across Canadian university campuses. Despite growing awareness of this problem, research shows that mental health supports for post-secondary students in Canada remain insufficient and inaccessible. This paper argues that the law is also lagging behind. Currently, no legal recourse exists to find universities civilly liable if students die by suicide, on- or off-campus. In an effort to address this lag, this paper examines the potential consequences of expanding the duty of care owed by universities to their students in tort law. This paper briefly maps the current legal terrain, both in terms of general duties of care that universities owe their students and jurisprudence related to suicide prevention, for example, in the contexts of jails and hospitals. The paper turns to American jurisprudence that has recognized a duty of care for universities to prevent student suicides and considers the potential costs and benefits, for universities and students alike, of adopting such a standard in Canada to create a new and expanded duty.