CACI No. 507. Duty to Warn Patient

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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507.Duty to Warn Patient
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] was negligent because
[he/she/nonbinary pronoun] did not warn [name of patient] that [his/her/
nonbinary pronoun] condition presented a danger to others.
[Name of defendant] was negligent if [name of plaintiff] proves that [he/
she/nonbinary prounoun] did not take reasonable steps to warn [name of
patient] that [his/her/nonbinary prounoun] condition presented a danger to
New September 2003
Directions for Use
This instruction is intended to cover situations where a patient’s condition
foreseeably causes harm to a third party.
Sources and Authority
“To avoid liability in this case, [defendants] should have taken whatever steps
were reasonable under the circumstances to protect [plaintiff] and other
foreseeable victims of [patient]’s dangerous conduct. What is a reasonable step
to take will vary from case to case.” (Myers v. Quesenberry (1983) 144
Cal.App.3d 888, 894 [193 Cal.Rptr. 733], internal citations omitted.) “Our
holding does not require the physician to do anything other than what he was
already obligated to do for the protection of the patient. Thus, even though it
may appear that the scope of liability has been expanded to include injuries to
foreseeable victims other than the patient, the standard of medical care to the
patient remains the same.” (Ibid.)
“When the avoidance of foreseeable harm to a third person requires a defendant
to control the conduct of a person with whom the defendant has a special
relationship (such as physician and patient) or to warn the person of the risks
involved in certain conduct, the defendant’s duty extends to a third person with
whom the defendant does not have a special relationship.” (Reisner v. Regents of
Univ. of California (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1195, 1198-1199 [37 Cal.Rptr.2d 518]
[infected sex partner could maintain action against his partners physicians for
failing to tell the young woman that she had received HIV-tainted blood].)
Proof of causation is still required: “[Defendants] will be liable only if [plaintiff]
is able to prove their failure to warn [patient] not to drive in an irrational and
uncontrolled diabetic condition was a substantial factor in causing his injuries.”
(Myers, supra, 144 Cal.App.3d at p. 895.)
This obligation to third parties appears to be limited to healthcare professionals
and does not apply to ordinary citizens. (Koepke v. Loo (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th
1444, 1456-1457 [23 Cal.Rptr.2d 34].)
Secondary Sources
3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical
Practitioners, § 31.16 (Matthew Bender)
36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 415, Physicians: Medical
Malpractice, § 415.13 (Matthew Bender)
17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 175, Physicians and Surgeons, §§ 175.22,
175.23 (Matthew Bender)

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