Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Duties of Mental Health Professionals to Protect Others in a School Setting

In the case of Swanger v. Warrior Run School District, No. 4:11-CV-894 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 2, 2018 Mariani, J.), the court addressed the duty of parties to control the conduct of third party to protect others from harm.  The case arose out of alleged inappropriate touching between two mentally challenged students in a school setting.

Judge Mariani stated that, as a general matter of law, persons have no duty to control the conduct of third parties to protect another from harm.  An exception exists for mental health professionals who know, or should know, that a patient poses an immediate threat of serious harm to a specific intended victim.   The court otherwise noted that the law does not impose any generalized duty upon mental health professionals to warn unspecified classes of person with whom patients might interact.  

In this matter, the court found that the Plaintiff did not have a claim against the Defendant mental health providers because the patient at issue made no reference during his treatment to the Plaintiffs as a specifically identified potential victim.  

As such, summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part in this matter. 

Anyone wishing to review of a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The companion Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm from bringing this case to my attention.

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