How far does “duty to warn” protect my therapist from being sued for damages she caused?

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How far does “duty to warn” protect my therapist from being sued for damages she caused?

I was not suicidal but I had intent to harm myself (and only myself). After calling my therapist, I was no longer intending to do any harm. Imagine my surprise when, an hour later, the police are at my doorstep asking me to come with them to the hospital. My therapist had called my boss to get my address. I subsequently lost my job due to the hospitalization (unnecessary) and my boss’s claim that I was “unfit” for work. Can I sue my therapist or boss for damages?

Asked on June 2, 2012 under Malpractice Law, Kentucky

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There is a good chance that you do not have any recourse, unfortunately.

1) If in the therapist's reasonable professional judgment (even if you dispute it), you posed a threat to yourself or potentially to others, she had an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent or avoid that harm. If under the circumstances, the reasonable way to get your address in a hurry was to call your boss, the therapist is not likely to be liable.

2) An employer may terminate an employee, even one who could claim a disability, if there is reason to believe that the employee cannot work safely there--that he or she could pose a threat to co-workers, customers, or even him/herself (since in the lastter case, there could still be consequences or liability for the empoyer). You boss therefore is likely allowed to terminate you under these circumstances. (Remember: as a genaler rule, if you do not have an employment contract, you are an employee at will and may be terminated at any time, for any reason.)

The above said, the specific facts of a case are critical to evaluating it; you should speak directly and in detail with a medical malpractice attorney about the situation to see if under the specific facts of your situation, you may have a cause of action.


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