Utah Supreme Court holds therapist have limited duty to parents to not recklessly create false memories or other false claims of sexual abuse; affirms murder conviction; and affirmed summary judgment in failure...

Mower v Baird and The Children’s Center

Mower appealed the dismissal of his medical malpractice claim against Baird arguing she owed him a duty of care as the nonpatient parent of a minor alleging sexual abuse. The Court reversed and remanded. It held that therapists involved with minor’s alleging sexual abuse owe limited duty to nonpatient parents because active misconduct in using inappropriate methods to cause false memory or false accusations are like affirmative acts traditionally creating a duty of care, physical harm from a false allegation of sexual abuse of a minor as people can attack the accused, only the therapist can act to prevent false memory allegations, limiting the duty to not recklessly creating false memory or false accusations will not interfere with treatment of abused children, the interests of the patient, therapist and parent are aligned in this setting, and confidentiality, the complexity of therapy and the mandatory reporting statute do not justify finding no duty here. It adopted the Restatement 3rd of Torts section 47(b)’s rule on negligent infliction emotional distress but, modified it to retain the requirement of severe emotional distress instead of serious distress and required a traditional duty of care to trigger a claim for damages, requiring plaintiffs to prove the activities or undertakings at issue impact the person’s core emotional wellbeing, an especially high risk of causing emotional distress and that no general policy considerations would lead to a rejection of the duty, emphasized the expansion beyond the traditional zone of danger rule is very limited requiring physical or mental manifestation of severe emotional distress, limits the scope of recovery. It held emotional distress damages area available in this case because parents are truly third parties and false memory or other false accusation of sexual abuse of a minor affects the parent’s core emotional wellbeing, parents are the most likely targets of false memory or other false accusations and being labeled a child abuser results in severe social consequences leading to emotional distress and the general policy considerations support the limited damages remedy based on the conclusion claims will be genuine , the class is limited and there is no vicarious liability. The court noted its decision was a middle ground between states which reject liability and those which reject limits on damages.

State v Sanchez

Sanchez sought review of the Court of Appeals decision that any erro in nota admitting certain statements was harmless and the state sought review of the portion of the decision holding the statements should have been admitted under Rule of evidence 106. The Court affirmed as to Sanchez on alternate grounds and vacated the Rule 106 decision. It vacated the Court of Appeals decision on rule 106 as the issue was important, but the Court declined to decide the issue given the lack of briefing on threshold questions and the Court’s determination any error was harmless. It held Sanchez’s constitutional argument that he was repented from raising his complete defense was unpreserved and the Rule 106 argument failed under the correct extreme emotional distress subjective standard of exposure to extremely unusual and overwhelming stress, loss of self-control, no mental illness and not caused by his own conduct and the objective standard of the reasonable person would have decision-making impaired in the circumstances (not the reasonableness of the subsequent actions as stated by the Court of Appeals decision in this case) because there was no evidence that Sanchez was subjectively under extreme emotional distress as of the time of victim’s death.

Espenschied Transport Corp. v Fleetwood Services, Inc. and Wilshire Insurance Company

Transport appealed summary judgment to Fleetwood and Wilshire on its claims for attorney fees and failure to purchase insurance coverage. It affirmed as to Fleetwood as Transport inadequately briefed a collateral source rule argument, conceded that all by $3,400 of its claim was indemnified by a third party and that it was uninterested in pursuing the case for $3,400, Fleetwood owed no fiduciary duty to obtain insurance and transport paid nothing in the underlying wrongful death suit and never will. It affirmed as to Wilshire because there can be no vicarious liability given Fleetwood has none and Transport failed to attack the district court ruling that there was no direct liability here.

Smith v Robinson

Smith appealed the dismissal of her medical malpractice suit against Robinson for false accusations of sexual abuse arising from Robinson’s of Smith’s children for sexual abuse. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with mower above.