On August 28, 2009, after 1 day of Motions Hearings and 3 days of contentious trial before the Honorable Kaye A. Allison, a Baltimore City Circuit Court Jury found Frank G. Eisler, a stepfather, negligent and awarded the biological father Dr. Joseph G. Montes, $50K in damages for the suicide death of his son, Brian A. Montes, age 16.  In early morning of April 11, 2005, Brian committed suicide with Eisler’s 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun, which was one of 11 firearms Eisler stored in the house.  Brian lived with his mother, Bernadine Eisler (f/k/a Bernadine Montes), and stepfather since he was 2 years old, and his suicidal ideations, and psychological, mental, and emotional problems evident since the age of 5 were well-known to Brian’s mother, as well as to Eisler although he denied said knowledge.  Although this case was never about money, and Plaintiff’s counsel argued such by leaving the determination of any award to the Jury, the Jury awarded Brian’s father, Dr. Joseph G. Montes, $50K in damages.

The facts and circumstances of this matter constitute a case of first impression in Maryland.  The defense lead by Frances Lanasa unsuccessfully attempted to derail the trial by seeking a summary judgment before the trial was to begin, arguing that Brian’s committing suicide was a superseding cause to Eisler’s negligence, and therefore, Brian was contributorily negligent.  In countering the defense, Plaintiff, following the case of Eisel v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, 324 Md. 376, 596 A.2d 447 (1991), argued that as a matter of law, Maryland should not treat a minor’s or adolescent’s committing suicide as a superseding cause when the entire premise of the Maryland legislature in passing laws to protect children, is that others, including parents, stepparents, and schools who knew or should have known of the suicidal intentions of the minor, have the potential to intervene effectively to prevent a minor’s suicide.

The jury heard from Plaintiff’s witnesses including Brian’s father, 2 friends, aunt, 2 stepmothers, Brian’s psychologist of 8 years, and a detective who was in charge of the suicide/homicide investigation.  The only defense witnesses were Brian’s mother and stepfather.  It took the jury just over 1 hour of deliberation to reach a Verdict.

Incredibly, after Brian took his life with Eisler’s gun, Eisler refused to apologize to Brian’s father and Brian’s family publicly and in writing, which could have ended this suit instantly.  Instead, it took a Baltimore City Jury Verdict to send a clear message to Eisler.  “This is a human life. This is a child.  Take it seriously.”  stated Montes.

Richard L. Gershberg, Attorney for Plaintiff Montes stated “When you’re dealing with a child, don’t we have a responsibility to protect that child, even if it’s protecting that child from himself?”

The case is Joseph G. Montes v. Frank G. Eisler, Circuit Court of Baltimore City,  Case No.: 24-C-08-001951.  The father was represented by Richard L. Gershberg and Jacob Toumayan attorneys with the law firm of Gershberg & Associates, LLC.  The Defendant Frank Eisler  was represented by Frances Lanasa.