Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California – (Failure to Act)
Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425, 551 P.2d 334, 131 Cal.Rptr. 14 (1976)
BY: James F. Polk – AISOL YEAR ONE STUDENT
- Poddar (UCLA Psychiatric Ward Patient) tells therapist he wants to kill Tarasoff.
- UCLA Psychiatric Ward tells Police.
- Police Detain Poddar but let him go based on their discretion.
- Poddar murders Tarasoff.
- Parents of Tarasoff sue.
- The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda sustains a demurrer filed by the parents for failure to state a valid claim against the therapists, police, and the Regents of University of California (Defendants).
- Plaintiffs sought review.
Issue: Did the Defendants owe a duty to the Victim, which in turn would make them liable for the harm caused by Poddar.
- Gave leave to amend the complaint against the Therapist and the Regents of UCLA, but not against the Police.
- This is based on the fact that there is a duty to report a dangerous patient to the police and the fact that the police then have the right to exercise discretion.
- The ultimate question then in the new became in the amended complaint later whether what the Therapist communicated to the police was adequate, but that is the new case and not the case at bench.
- Court held that Plaintiffs had the right to amend complaint. The Plaintiffs had the right to bring a complaint for the cause of action of breach of duty to exercise reasonable care against the Therapists and Regents of UCLA.
- The Police only received the communication from the Therapists and then detained him which did not create the relationship specifically required to create a duty to warn Tarasoff of Poddar’s alleged intention to kill her.
- Plaintiff has a right to bring a complaint against the Defendant Therapists and Regents of UCLS based on the cause of action of failure of a duty to warn.
———————————————————- quotes ——————————————————–
* Court: “[o]nce a therapist determines, or under applicable professional standards reasonably 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. While the discharge of this duty of due care will necessarily vary with the facts of each case, in each instance the adequacy of the therapist’s conduct must be measured against the traditional negligence standard of the rendition of reasonable care under the circumstances.”
Court’s Conclusion: “[a] physician may not reveal the confidence entrusted to him in the course of medical attendance unless he is required to do so by law or unless it becomes necessary in order to protect the welfare of the individual or of the community.”
* The Court on the relevant statute regarding the liability and duty of the Police: “a public employee is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission where the act or omission was the result of the exercise of the discretion vested in him, whether or not such discretion was abused. There is a line between discretionary policy decisions which enjoy statutory immunity and ministerial administrative acts which do not. Section 820.2 affords immunity only for ‘basic policy decisions.’”
Court granted Police Immunity based on above verbatim reasoning.