Mother sues OUS for son’s suicide

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The mother of an Oregon Institute of Technology freshman who committed suicide has sued the Oregon University System for $2 million, claiming the Klamath Falls school should have taken steps to prevent her son’s death.

Benjamin Thomas Jordan was 19 when he killed himself on May 18, 2003, in his dorm room at OIT, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland by his mother, Elizabeth Jordan.

The complaint said Jordan became a patient of the school’s mental health services in February of his freshman year, but the school terminated the counseling on April 16, a month before his death.

The lawsuit claims that OIT and campus counseling center employees contributed to Jordan’s death when they failed to refer him to a psychiatrist, failed to diagnose and adequately treat his mental illness, did not notify his family that he was at risk, and ended his counseling.

Elizabeth Jordan’s attorney, Linda Eyerman, said Wednesday that she and Jordan had no comment. Benjamin Jordan graduated from Reynolds High School in Troutdale, according to his obituary.

Joe Holliday, OIT’s vice president for student affairs, declined to discuss Benjamin Jordan’s death.

“We have ongoing suicide prevention efforts. We had them before Ben Jordan took his own life and we have had them since,” Holliday said.

Ben Rawlins, general counsel for the Oregon University System, said he had not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.

Nationwide, more college students are seeking treatment for mental illness, raising liability issues for universities.

Elizabeth Jordan’s lawsuit is similar to a closely watched case at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the parents of a sophomore who set herself on fire in her dorm room have sued for $27 million, claiming MIT failed to inform them of her mental state or place her under adequate care.

College students are far less likely than their non-student peers to kill themselves, studies show. National mental health groups estimate that nearly 1,100 college students die by suicide each year.