We need your help on duty to warn

February 27, 2017

The recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling in Volk v DeMeerleer abandoned the longtime standard for when a provider has a duty to warn potential victims and law enforcement of a dangerous patient’s inclination to cause harm. The previous standard required a warning be made when there was an actual threat of physical violence against an identifiable victim or victims. With the ruling, the court determined the question of whether the warning was adequately made is based on whether the provider should have foreseen the patient’s actions. This ruling created ambiguity for providers and made it impossible for them to know when they have met their obligations.

Senate Bill 5800 will clarify that mental health providers have a duty to warn potential victims and law enforcement when a patient makes an actual threat of physical violence against the reasonably identifiable victim or victims.

The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, and we need your help contacting legislators to ensure that this bill advances to a reading before the full Senate.

We’d like to thank Jeff Sconyers, Senior Lecturer, Graduate Programs in Health Services and Retired General Counsel, Seattle Children’s for his work to inform legislators about the importance of the clarifications made in SB 5800. (Taya Briley)


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Washington State Hospital Association
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Seattle, WA 98104

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