Alert for Mental Health Care Professionals in Vermont

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On September 16, 2016, the Vermont Supreme Court issued an amended Opinion in the matter of Kuligoski et al. vs. Brattleboro Retreat and Northeast Kingdom Human Services (Docket No. 2014-396), regarding the circumstances giving rise to a mental health professionals’ duty to warn third parties. In the original Opinion (issued on May 6, 2016), the Court expanded the well-established duty of mental health care professionals to warn “identifiable victims” to include a duty to warn individuals within a “zone of danger” as well. In the amended Opinion, the Court upheld its finding that the duty to warn extended to individuals within a “zone of danger”, but clarified that the expanded duty to warn applied only when:

a caregiver is actively engaged with the patient’s provider in connection with the patient’s care or the patient’s treatment plan (or in this case discharge plan), the provider substantially relies on that caregiver’s ongoing participation, and the caregiver is himself or herself within the zone of danger of the patient’s violent propensities. 

If you have any questions or concerns and/or if you need advice in regards to the duty to warn, please feel free to email Anne Cramer, Esq., Shireen Hart Esq., or Linda Peruzzi, Esq., or call us at (802) 864-0880.