Brady v. Hopper

Decision Date27 December 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-2401,83-2401
Citation751 F.2d 329
PartiesJames Scott BRADY, Timothy John McCarthy, and Thomas K. Delahanty, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. John J. HOPPER, Jr., M.D., Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Paul D. Kamenar of the Washington Legal Foundation, Washington, D.C. (Daniel J. Popeo of the Washington Legal Foundation, Washington, D.C., Jacob A. Stein, Stein, Mitchell & Mezines, Robert Cadeaux, Washington, D.C., and Charles F. Brega and Robert E. Kendig, Roath & Brega, P.C., Denver, Colo., with him on the briefs), for plaintiffs-appellants.

Michael T. McConnell, Denver, Colo. (Joseph C. Jaudon and Robert M. Baldwin, Denver, Colo., with him on the brief), Long & Jaudon, Denver, Colo., for defendant-appellee.

Before HOLLOWAY, Chief Judge, and BARRETT and DOYLE, Circuit Judges.

BARRETT, Circuit Judge.

The sole question presented on this appeal is whether the federal district court was clearly erroneous in granting the defendant-appellee's, John J. Hopper, Jr., M.D. (Dr. Hopper), motion to dismiss the complaint and cause of action filed by plaintiffs-appellants, James Scott Brady, Timothy John McCarthy and Thomas K. Delahanty (hereinafter for convenience referred to as appellants) for failure to state a claim which would entitle them to relief. The appellants were shot and seriously injured by John W. Hinckley, Jr., during his attempt to assassinate President Reagan in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1981. For a period from late October, 1980, until March, 1981, Dr. Hopper, a psychiatrist residing and practicing in Colorado, had treated Hinckley on an out-patient basis.

The district court found/ruled that even assuming that all of the facts and many of the conclusions set forth in appellants' complaint were taken as true, still they would not be sufficient to create a legal duty on the part of Dr. Hopper to protect these appellants from the specific harm done them by Hinckley.

The district court concluded, and we agree, that there are no controlling Colorado decisions on the specific issue involving the duty owed by Dr. Hopper under the circumstances alleged. In a detailed Memorandum Opinion and Order, the district court concluded, as a matter of Colorado law, that there was no duty owed by Dr. Hopper to the appellants absent allegations that, in the forseeability context, Hinckley had conveyed to Dr. Hopper specific threats against specific (namely, the appellants here) victims. See, Brady v. Hopper, 570 F.Supp. 1333, 1339 (D.Colo.1983). The court analyzed and discussed Colorado law, Colorado decisions, general applicable tort law and principles and decisions from other jurisdictions. The court concluded that the Colorado Supreme Court, if acting in the same case and capacity of the federal district court sitting in this diversity suit, would adopt the rationale announced by the California Supreme Court in the cases of Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425, 131 Cal.Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334 (1976) and Thompson v. County of Alameda, 27 Cal.3d 741, 167 Cal.Rptr. 70, 614 P.2d 728 (1980).

In Tarasoff, the Court held that "[w]hen a (psychotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist, as used interchangeably) determines, or pursuant to the standards of his profession should determine, that his patient presents a serious danger of violence to another, he incurs an obligation to use reasonable care to protect the intended victim against such danger." 551 P.2d at 340. In Thompson, the Court refused to extend the Tarasoff obligation imposed upon a third person in a setting where there was no identifiable victim. The Court instead concluded that there was no duty on the part of a third person where the patient had made generalized threats to kill but no specific threats to specifically identifiable victims. 614 P.2d at 735.

In the instant case, the court concluded/found that "[i]n my opinion, the 'specific threats to specific victims' rule states a workable, reasonable, and fair boundary upon the sphere of a therapist's liability to third persons for the acts of their patients." 570 F.Supp. at 1339. The court concluded that absent allegations in a complaint that a psychiatrist is aware of his patient's specific threats to specific victims, there exists no legal duty or obligation on the part of the psychiatrist for harm done by the patient. The court found that "... [t]he legal obstacle to the maintenance of this suit is that there is no relationship between Dr. Hopper and plaintiffs which creates any legal obligation from Dr. Hopper to these plaintiffs." 570 F.Supp. at 1339. This was predicated upon the court's analysis of the Appellants' Complaint, with which we agree, as follows:

Accepting as true the facts alleged in the complaint and viewing them in a light most favorable to plaintiffs, it is my conclusion that plaintiffs' injuries were not foreseeable; therefore, the plaintiffs fall outside of the scope of defendant's duty. Nowhere in the complaint are there allegations that Hinckley made any threats regarding President Reagan, or indeed that he ever threatened anyone. At most, the complaint states that if Dr. Hopper had interviewed Hinckley more carefully, he would have discovered that Hinckley was obsessed with Jody Foster and the movie "Taxi Driver", that he collected books on Ronald Reagan and political...

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39 cases
  • Perreira v. State
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • February 6, 1989
    ... ... 70, 76 (1980) (Tarasoff duty to warn limited to readily identifiable victims); see also Brady v. Hopper, 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir.1984) (on basis of assumption that Colorado would follow "specific threat to specific person" rule, Tenth Circuit ... ...
  • Estates of Morgan v. Fairfield Family Counseling Ctr.
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • January 22, 1997
    ... ... Kim (1986), 151 Mich.App. 169, 390 N.W.2d 218; Peck v. Counseling Serv. of Addison Cty., Inc. (1985), 146 Vt. 61, 499 A.2d 422; Brady v. Hopper (C.A.10, 1984), 751 F.2d 329; Lundgren v. Fultz (Minn.1984), 354 N.W.2d 25; Lipari v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. (D.C.Neb.1980), 497 F.Supp ... ...
  • Schuster v. Altenberg
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1988
    ... ... Some other courts have similarly followed ... Page 172 ... the readily identifiable victim analysis. 10 However, as discussed in Brady v. Hopper, 570 F.Supp. 1333 (D.Colo.1983), aff'd 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir.1984), these decisions are premised upon the majority opinion in Palsgraf, in ... ...
  • Emerich v. Phila. Center for Human Dev.
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • November 25, 1998
    ... ... See e.g., Brady v. Hopper, 570 F.Supp. 1333 (D.Colo.1983), aff'd 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir.1984) ; Fraser v. United States, 236 Conn. 625, 674 A.2d 811 (1996) ; ... ...
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4 books & journal articles
  • The Psychiatrist's Dilemma: Protect the Public or Safeguard Individual Liberty?
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 11-02, December 1987
    • Invalid date
    ...But see Sakuda v. Kyodogumi Co., 555 F. Supp. 371 (D. Haw. 1983). See also Brady v. Hopper, 570 F. Supp. 1333 (D. Col. 1983), affd., 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir. 1984). In Brady, the Colorado court rejected the argument that the special therapist-patient relationship creates duties which extend ......
  • Therapists' liability to the falsely accused for inducing illusory memories of childhood sexual abuse - current remedies and a proposed statute.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 11 No. 1-2, March 1996
    • March 22, 1996
    ...v. County of Alameda, 614 P.2d 728, 732-38 (Cal. 1980). (237) Id. In Brady v. Hopper, 570 F. Supp. 1333, 1338 (D. Colo. 1983), aff'd, 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir. 1984) the court held that absent a threat to an identifiable victim, a dangerous act was not foreseeable. (238) Schuster v. Altenberg......
  • Ethically Speaking
    • United States
    • Wyoming State Bar Wyoming Lawyer No. 30-1, February 2007
    • Invalid date Tarasoff, and Lexis lists nearly 1600 court opinions and 778 law review articles that cite the case. 26 See e.g., Brady v. Hopper, 751 F.2d 329, 330 (10th Cir. 1984); Jablonski by Pahls v. United States, 712 F.2d 391, 397 (9th Cir. 1983); and Hamman v. County of Maricopa, 775 P.2d 1122, ......
  • The Duty to Warn and the Liability of Mental Health Care Providers
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 16-1, January 1987
    • Invalid date
    ...of the University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425, 551 P.2d 334 (1976) (hereafter, "Tarasoff II"). 2. 570 F.Supp. 1333 (D.Colo. 1983), aff'd, 751 F.2d 329 (10th Cir. 1984). 3. 15 Colo.Law.. 2245 (Dec. 1986)(App. No. 84CA0402, annc'd, 10/9/86). 4. See, Roth and Levin, "Dilemma of Tarasoff. Must......

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