Walker Revels Wins Major Appellate Victory in Parkland Shooting Lawsuits
For the second time in a week, Eric Netcher and Josh Walker won an appellate victory before the Fourth District Court of Appeal. This one will have a profound impact on the ability of mental health providers to provide services to the community without the constant fear of tort liability.
The appeals arose from lawsuits filed by victims of the horrific mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Claims were made against a behavioral health provider that provided services to the shooter as a teenager, but had not seen him for over a year before the tragic shooting. The plaintiffs argued that the behavioral health provider had a duty to prevent the shooting by warning the school of the shooter’s potential threat. The trial court concluded that no duty existed, and the Fourth DCA has now affirmed that conclusion in a detailed opinion that adopts each of our arguments.
The Fourth DCA strengthened the principal that there is no “duty of mental health providers to warn third parties that a patient may be dangerous.” The court recognized the chilling effect that a ruling against the mental health provider could have. The court concluded:
In this case, a holding that [the mental health provider] owed a legal duty to protect or warn students that attended the same school as one of its patients would not only undermine effective patient-therapist relationships, but it also would discourage mental health professionals from providing mental health services to students. It is difficult to predict any human being’s future conduct. Unlike scientific disciplines firmly grounded in mathematics, psychology is not a precise science, so courts should be cautious about expanding liability beyond the therapist-patient relationship.
The court’s full opinion is here: https://www.4dca.org/content/download/636529/7231175/file/191512_DC05_05272020_091833_i.pdf