Do you have a duty to warn? It may depend on where you live.

By Eileen Weber
June 30th, 2022
Ken Lehman, a shareholder in the Litigation Group and a co-chair of the Health Care Group at the law firm of Bernstein Shur based in Portland, Maine.
Ken Lehman, a shareholder in the Litigation Group and a co-chair of the Health Care Group at the law firm of Bernstein Shur based in Portland, Maine.

What is the duty to warn and what does that mean for healthcare providers?

There are specific legal cases that lay it out. In the 1976 landmark case of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, a court found that a psychologist should have warned his patient’s girlfriend after his patient told the psychologist of his intention to kill her despite a breach in confidentiality.

In the 1986 case of Jablonski by Pahls v. the United States a doctor conducted a risk assessment of Mr. Jablonski but did not review his history of violence. As a result, the client's girlfriend was not warned and he later killed her.

By 2014, cases like People v. Kailey issued the rule that when a patient relays threatening communications during the...

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