Elizabeth Shin, 19, was engulfed in flames when police burst into her dorm room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000. After the state medical examiner ruled her death was “self-inflicted,” it seemed that the troubled student had followed through on repeated threats to kill herself, says the Associated Press. The firefighter who investigated the blaze had doubts that could be important evidence in a lawsuit Shin’s parents have filed against six MIT employees, claiming they didn’t do enough to prevent her from killing herself.
Educators are concerned that the lawsuit could open the door to a flood of litigation and force schools to bear an untenable legal burden of preventing students from committing suicide. A judge has dismissed the Shins’ claim against MIT, but allowed the case to proceed against the six employees, saying there was evidence they could have foreseen “that Elizabeth would hurt herself without proper supervision.”