California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

503B. Affirmative Defense—Psychotherapist’s Warning to Victim and Law Enforcement

[Name of defendant] is not responsible for [[name of plaintiff]’s injury/the death of [name of decedent]] if [name of defendant] proves that [he/she] made reasonable efforts to communicate the threat to [name of plaintiff/ decedent] and to a law enforcement agency.

Derived from former CACI No. 503 April 2007

Directions for Use

Read this instruction for a Tarasoff cause of action for professional negligence against a psychotherapist (Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. (1976) 17 Cal.3d 425 [131 Cal.Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334]) if there is a dispute of fact regarding whether the defendant made reasonable efforts to warn the victim and a law enforcement agency of a threat made by the defendant’s patient. The therapist is immune from liability under Tarasoff if he or she makes reasonable efforts to communicate the threat to the victim and to a law enforcement agency. (Civ. Code, § 43.92(b).) CACI No. 503A, Psychotherapist’s Duty to Warn and Protect Intended Victim From Patient’s Threat, sets forth the elements of a Tarasoff cause of action if the defendant is not immune.

In a wrongful death case, insert the name of the decedent victim where applicable.

Sources and Authority

  • Civil Code section 43.92(b) provides: “There shall be no monetary liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, a psychotherapist who, under the limited circumstances specified above, discharges his or her duty to warn and protect by making reasonable efforts to communicate the threat to the victim or victims and to a law enforcement agency.”
  • Failure to inform a law enforcement agency concerning a homicidal threat made by a patient against his work supervisor did not abrogate the “firefighter’s rule” and, therefore, did not render the psychiatrist liable to a police officer who was subsequently shot by the patient. (Tilley v. Schulte (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 79, 85–86 [82 Cal.Rptr.2d 497].)
  • “When the communication of the serious threat of physical violence is received by the therapist from a member of the patient’s immediate family and is shared for the purpose of facilitating and furthering the patient’s treatment, the fact that the family member is not technically a ‘patient’ is not crucial to the statute’s purpose.” (Ewing v. Goldstein (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 807, 817 [15 Cal.Rptr.3d 864].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1050, 1051

26 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 304, Insane and Other Incompetent Persons, § 304.93 (Matthew Bender)

11 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 117, Insane and Incompetent Persons: Actions Involving Mental Patients, § 117.30 (Matthew Bender)