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Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. - 17 Cal. 3d 425, 131 Cal. Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334 (1976)

Rule:

Once 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts:

Defendants, therapist and University employees, did not confine a patient (Poddar) who expressed intentions to kill victim, nor warn victim of patient's intentions.Patient killed victim. The victim’s parents (Tarasoff) sued the therapist and University employees for failing to exercise their duty to warn the victim of the danger posed by the patient. 

Issue:

Does a psychiatrist have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect others from the dangers his patients pose? 

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court held that when a therapist determines, or pursuant to the standards of his profession should determine, that his patient presents a serious danger of violence to another, he incurs an obligation to use reasonable care to protect the intended victim against such danger.

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