Thompson v. Cty. of Alameda

27 Cal. 3d 741, 167 Cal. Rptr. 70, 614 P.2d 728 (1980)



The duty to warn includes several factors including: 1) the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, 2) the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, 3) the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, 4) the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct, 5) the policy of preventing future harm, 6) the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and 7)  the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.

If a public agency is involved there are additional elements needed to establish the duty to warn including, 1) the extent of the agency's powers, 2) the role imposed upon it by law and 3) budget considerations



Plaintiffs, whose 5-year-old son was killed by a juvenile offender within 24 hours of his release on temporary leave, brought an action against a county alleging the death was caused by the county's negligence in releasing the offender into the community, and failing to advise or warn the juvenile's mother, the local police, or parents within the immediate vicinity of the juvenile's residence, in failing to exercise due care in maintaining custody and control over the juvenile through his mother, and failing to exercise reasonable care in selecting the mother to serve as the county's agent in maintaining custody and control over the juvenile. Plaintiffs alleged that the county knew the juvenile was dangerous and had violent propensities regarding young children and also knew he had indicated he would, if released, take the life of a young child residing in the neighborhood. The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal in favor of defendant, which the Supreme Court affirmed.  


Was the County liable for negligence in releasing the prisoner without warning to the community?




Respondent County of Alameda was protected by immunity under one statute, because its decisions were matters of discretion and, under another statute, immunity was granted specifically to decisions regarding the release of a prisoner. Respondent had no affirmative duty to warn about the release of the juvenile offender, who had made nonspecific threats of harm directed at nonspecific victims.

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