Goldberg and Blum Address Scope of Health Professional’s Duty to Warn

Shook Partners Phil Goldberg and Joseph Blum have filed an amici brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court arguing against expansion of a mental health professional’s duty to warn of a patient’s potential risk of harm to others. Goldberg also is a co-chair of Shook’s Public Policy Group.

The case arose when a man killed one of his neighbors shortly after being discharged from a mental health facility. The man had never made any threats, or expressed homicidal ideation toward his neighbor, but the trial court found that his professional provider owed a duty to warn the man’s neighbors of the risk of harm–and as a result, lowered the standard for liability of mental health care providers. 

Goldberg and Blum assert in their brief that the trial court should not have lowered that standard. They remind the Court that Pennsylvania has a well-crafted regulatory regime governing mental health care, and argue that expanding liability of mental health professionals improperly gives more weight to liability risks than patient care, ultimately reducing overall public safety. Shook filed the brief on behalf of the American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society.

The case is Mass v. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, No. 7 WAP 2019 (Pa.)