Perry v. S.N. and S.N.
Supreme Court of TX - 1998
- P's children were abused at day care.
- Ds allegedly saw the abuse but did not report it, in violation of a TX statute requiring people who witness or suspect abuse to report it.
- P sued D in negligence based upon the violation of the statute.
- Trial court found for P.
- Appellate court reversed and remanded.
- TX Supreme Court affirmed, found for D.
- What analysis should be used in determining if a criminal statute establishes a standard of conduct in tort?
- In determining whether a criminal statute establishes a standard of conduct in tort, a court should consider…
- Whether the common law imposes such a duty/would applying negligence per se create a new type of tort liability that did not previously exist
- Whether the statute gives adequate notice to the public by clearly defining what behavior is required
- Whether applying negligence per se would create liability without fault
- Whether negligence per se would impose ruinous liability disproportionate to the seriousness of the D's conduct
- Whether the injury resulted directly or indirectly from the violation of the statute
- There is no duty to report in common law so a ruling for negligence per se would create a new type of tort liability.
- There is some ambiguity in the statute about how much knowledge is needed before criminal liability is imposed.
- The penalties for failure to report are quite low and could be disproportionate to the civil liability.
- The injury was not directly related to the violation of the statute.
- For these reasons, civil liability should not be imposed for criminal violation of this statute.
- Negligence per se analysis:
- P member of class of persons that the statute was designed to protect?
- P suffered the type of injury the statute was meant to prevent?
- Would it be fair and wise to impose civil liability for a violation of the criminal statute? (public policy argument)