Fri, Jun 16, 2017 - Page 3 News List

‘Haunted’ label does not apply in overdoses: court

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The New Taipei City District Court this week ruled that the death of a man from a drug overdose is different from a suicide or murder, meaning the location of his death cannot be labeled xiongzhai (凶宅), or “haunted house” — a classification that devalues a property.

A landlord surnamed Hsu (許) filed the lawsuit after a drug overdose-related death in a rental unit in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District (三重), which he said resulted in devaluation of the property.

In 2015, Hsu rented the 14 ping (46.3m2) apartment, valued at about NT$10.3 million (US$340,530 at the current exchange rate), to a woman surnamed Liu (劉), whose boyfriend, surnamed Hsieh (謝), died in the unit of a drug overdose.

In Taiwanese folk belief, places where deaths have occurred are considered inhabited by the malevolent spirits of the deceased, which brings bad fortune, ill health and other problems for people who move in afterward.

Hsu said that after Hsieh’s death, the apartment lost 10 percent of its value, or about NT$1.03 million.

He filed a lawsuit against Liu and Hsieh’s family seeking compensation of NT$1.03 million.

However, the judges wrote in the court ruling that it could not be proven whether Hsieh had overdosed on purpose, which means that the apartment could not be considered “haunted.”

Hsu was not awarded any compensation.

“Death by drug overdose is not a suicide, nor a murder. It should be regarded as an accidental death, like someone dying from a fall from a great height or of food poisoning,” the court said in a statement. “As such, Hsu’s unit cannot be labeled xiongzhai.”

“The case filed by Hsu has been dismissed,” it added.

Analysts said that the ruling would be an important reference in the real-estate industry, as “haunted houses” are a real issue for Taiwanese — affecting property values and rental prices — and has been the source of disputes in a number of property transactions.

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