Torts I, Pages 452–455

Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California

Supreme Court of California, 1976

Facts:

Poddar was under treatment at defendants' hospital, whom he told that he was planning on killing plaintiffs' daughter. Plaintiffs had Poddar detained but decided that no further action was needed and he was released. Two months later, Poddar murdered plaintiffs' daughter.

Procedural History:

Trial court dismissed for failure to state cause of action.

Issue:

Does a psychotherapist have duty to warn a reasonably identifiable victim of a serious threat of physical violence?

Rule:

Where the defendant and the criminal actor have a special relationship and the harm is reasonably foreseeable, the defendant may have an affirmative duty for the benefit of third persons.

Reasoning:

A California statute prevents liability for deciding to release him, but nothing gives them immunity for not warning the victim.

Holding:

Yes, a psychotherapist has a duty to warn a reasonably identifiable victim of a serious threat of physical violence. Remanded to amend in accordance with instructions.

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