Poddar was under the care of psychologist D. D learned from Poddar that he intended to kill P.
D had the campus police detain Poddar. D and other psychologists got together and decided that no further action should be taken to detain Poddar.
Two months later, Poddar shot and stabbed P to death.
P's parents sued D for failing to detain Poddar and failing to warn about the danger.
Trial court dismissed P's claim (doctors had tort immunity).
CA Supreme Court reversed, remanded.
Does a psychologist have a duty to warn those who might be in danger at the hands of his patients?
A psychologist has a duty to warn those who might be in danger at the hands of his patients.
There is an exception to the general no duty rule in cases in which the D stands in some special relationship to either the person whose conduct needs to be controlled or in a relationship to the foreseeable victim of that conduct. (Restatement 315-320)
Since predictions of violence are often erroneous, it is not required that the psychologist render a perfect performance.
The therapist must, however, exercise that ordinary skill, knowledge, care ordinarily exercised by those members of the professional specialty under similar circumstances.
Once a therapist determines or should have determined that a patient poses a serious danger of violence to others, he bears a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the foreseeable victim of that danger.
The risk that unnecessary warnings be given is a reasonable price to pay to save lives.
The whole doctor patient privilege thing doesn't apply here; the legislature carved out an exception for these circumstances.