Poddar V. Tarasoff Case Brief

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On August 20, 1969, Prosenjit Poddar told Dr. Lawrence Moore that he intended to kill one Tatiana Tarasoff. Dr. Lawrence Moore was a psychologist employed by the Cowell Memorial Hospital at the University of California at Berkeley. The campus police briefly detained Poddar, but released him because he appeared to be rational. Dr. Harvey Powelson, Moore's superior, also agreed that Poddar could be released. No one warned the victim's parents (plaintiffs) of the threat to Tatiana.

On October 27, 1969, Poddar killed Tatiana Tarasoff.

Plaintiffs filed suit in Superior Court of Alameda County, alleging that Tatiana's death was caused by the defendants' negligent failure to warn Tatiana (or others who could warn her). Defendants argued that they
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However, the courts have created an exception to this rule if the defendant has some type of special relationship to either the person whose conduct needs to be controlled or to any foreseeable victim of that person’s conduct.

Between Poddar and the therapists there existed a special relationship of patient and therapist. Other jurisdictions have held that the relationship of a doctor to his/her patient is sufficient to mandate a duty of care to protect others against a patient who is dangerous.

While the defendants argued that open communication is essential to psychotherapy and that warning a third party would constitute a breach of confidential patient communications, the court believed that once a therapist determines, or reasonably should have determined, that a patient poses a serious risk to others, the therapist incurs a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect any foreseeable victim.

In fact, the California Legislature created a specific exception to the psychotherapist-patient privilege where there is reasonable cause to believe that the patient is dangerous to another, and disclosure is necessary to prevent the threatened
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