Avita v. Crisis Preparation & Recovery, Inc., No CV-22-0288-PR (October 16, 2023) (J. Bolick) https://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Supreme/2023/CV220288PR.pdf
A.R.S. § 13-3620(A) CREATES A DUTY TO REPORT PRIOR BUT NOT FUTURE HARM FROM CHILD ABUSE, NEGLECT OR ENDANGERMENT AND COMMON LAW DUTY REQUIRES A “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” OR “PUBLIC POLICY” NEXUS AND FORESEEABILITY IS IRRELEVANT
Samuel Avitia brought this wrongful death action against The State, Pima County, healthcare providers and Crisis Preparation and Recovery [CPR] alleging a statutory and common law duty to warn of abuse, neglect and endangerment of his infant twins.
Avitia had a twin children with ML who suffered a mental illness. ML and Avita never married. They shared custody of the twins. ML was taken to a crisis center and ultimately the emergency room where a CPR licensed professional counselor interviewed her and determined she was not safe to be discharged to care for herself or her children. The counselor also obtained a court ordered evaluation and treatment. Ultimately the court ordered she receive inpatient and outpatient treatment which she did. Subsequently she drowned her children in the bathtub. She was convicted of first degree murder, except insane and committed to the Arizona State Hospital.
The superior court granted CPR's motion for summary judgement finding CPR did not owe Avita a duty to report potential future harm to his children. Avita appealed. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the trial court and vacated the court of appeals decision.
The Arizona Supreme Court held:
We hold that the statutory duty to report child abuse or neglect
under A.R.S. § 13-3620(A) does not encompass reporting a risk
of future harm. We also hold that mental health professionals
owe a duty to third parties based not on foreseeability of
harm, but on their special relationship and public policy. Because
prior judicial decisions found a duty in such circumstances based on
foreseeability, see Hamman v. County of Maricopa, 161 Ariz. 58
(1989) and Little v. All Phoenix South Community Mental Health
Center, 186 Ariz. 97 (App. 1996), we overrule those decisions.
A.R.S. § 13-3620(A) only requires reporting when it is reasonably believed a minor “is or has been” a victim. There was no evidence of neglect or abuse by ML prior to her encounters with CPR. No duty exists under the statute to report potential future harm.
Regarding common law duty, A.R.S. § 36-531 creates a statutory duty on CPR to seek a court ordered involuntary treatment evaluation. CPR met that duty. No other public policy or special relationship nexus was established here so the trial court properly found no statutory or common law duty and correctly granted summary judgment.