At common law, a person does not generally have an affirmative duty to control the conduct of another. An exception to this rule exists when a special relationship between parties is sufficient to establish a duty of care. Such a duty can be symmetrical (husband-wife) or asymmetrical (adult-minor, doctor-patient), and the nature of the relationship determines the nature of the duty owed. The special relationship can be with either the person whose conduct needs to be controlled (where the plaintiff would be an injured party not in a special relationship with the defendant) or a foreseeable victim (and future plaintiff) of that conduct.
“Tarasoff” lays out the doctrine and arguments for and against the rule. “Broadbent” focuses on whether parents have a duty to protect their children from hurting themselves. “Hawkins” shows the bounds of a doctor’s duty to her patient, including the recurring theme of foreseeability of harm to a known plaintiff. “Cuppy” illustrates the special relationship analysis for finding a duty to control. The contrasting approaches in “Charles” and “Kelly” show the majority and minority (New Jersey) rules for social host liability. “Einhorn” discusses the landlord-tenant relationship and the limits of the duty within it. The extent to which the owner-invitee relationship requires protecting invitees from third party criminal acts is explored in “Boyd”.
Does the host who serves alcohol have a duty to prevent the intoxicated from driving?
Notes: Defendant hosted a social gathering at his home. Minors were served alcohol by the defendant. Plaintiff is suing on behalf of one of the minors, who became intoxicated at the gathering and died in a car accident while driving away from defendant’s home.
Should children be allowed to sue if their parents’ failure to supervise them led to harm?
Notes: Plaintiff—a two-and-a-half year old boy—nearly drowned in a pool and suffers severe brain damage. The defendant—his mother—had left him by the pool unattended for 5 to 10 minutes in order to answer a phone call.
Do therapists have a duty to control their patients? If so, how far does this duty extend, and how may it be discharged?
Notes: A mentally unstable individual murders a young woman. Before the murder, he confided his intention to kill the woman to his therapist. The police were notified of this danger, but no attempt was made to inform the victim or those close to her. The therapists also chose not to confine the murderer, despite his plan to kill.
How does this court interpret the duty of social hosts to prevent the intoxicated from driving?
Notes: A social host allowed a guest at his home to drink alcohol until the point of visible and severe intoxication. The host then allowed the guest to drive home. The intoxicated guest then got into a car accident with the plaintiff.
Should doctors be liable to a third party if their failure to warn a patient about their disease leads to harm?
Notes: A doctor screens the plaintiff for hepatitis C, and erroneously tells her that the results were negative. While unaware of her infection, plaintiff marries and unknowingly transmits the virus to her husband. At no time was the doctor ever aware of the plaintiff’s (eventual) husband. Plaintiff argued that had she been informed of her disease, she and her husband could have taken steps to prevent its transmission.
Should third parties employed to complete a service be liable for crimes committed due to their negligence?
Notes: Plaintiff brought suit against a locksmith for failing to properly install the outside door lock of her financee’s apartment building. She was raped in the building by an intruder, who may have entered through the defectively-locked front door.
Does an owner’s duty to prevent harm against invitees require them to comply with criminal threats?
Notes: A robber entered the bank, put a gun to the head of plaintiff’s husband, and demanded the teller “give him money or open the door”. Instead of complying with either choice, the teller ducked to the ground. The robber then shot and killed the husband.
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