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Case Study: Petitioners V.

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Vladimir Tarasoff, et al., Plaintiffs-Petitioners v. Regents of the University of California, et al., Defendants-Respondents. Decided on July 1 1976 by the California Supreme Court
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Case facts: October 1969, Prosenjit Poddar murdered Tatiana Tarasoff. Tatiana’s parents, said that only a short time ago, Poddar had expressed his intention to carry out the act. They said he had confided to his therapist, Dr. Lawrence Moore, a psychologist employed by the University of California. They also implied Dr. Moore had warned campus police of Poddar’s intentions. They had briefly detained him, but then released him. The parents asserted these two grounds for their action: the failure to confine Poddar, in spite of his expressed intentions
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The Supreme Court of California addressed an area of tort law concerning duty owed. The analysis was a balancing test between the need to protect privileged communication between a therapist and his patient and the protection of the greater society against potential threats. The court began its analysis by reveiweing the “special relationship” required that imposes a duty on an individual to control another. “A duty of care may arise from either (a) a special relation between the actor and the third person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person’s conduct, or (b) a special relation between the actor and the other which gives to the other a right of protection. When a hospital has notice or knowledge of facts from which it might reasonably be concluded that a patient would be likely to harm himself or others unless preclusive measures were taken, then the hospital must use reasonable care in the circumstances to prevent such harm.” The court specifically explained, “In attempting to forecast whether a patient presents a serious danger of violence, a court does not require that a therapist, in making that determination, render a perfect performance; the therapist need only exercise that reasonable degree of skill, knowledge, and care ordinarily possessed and exercised by members of that professional specialty under similar…show more content…
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.’” Thus, immunity was afforded to the police.Justice Clark dissented, quoting a law review article that stated, "the very practice of psychiatry depends upon the reputation in the community that the psychiatrist will not tell."

Implications for psychology/practice/ life in general following the verdict: As of 2012, 33 states have adopted a mandatory duty to protect for mental health professionals in statute or common law, 11 states have a permissive duty, and six states are described as having no statutes or case law offering guidance.A duty to warn or protect is mandated and codified in legislative statutes of 23 states, while the duty is not codified in a statute but is present in the common law supported by precedent in 10
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