Sunday, July 30, 2006

Case Law Development: No Private Cause of Action for Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's denial of summary judgment to a psychologist, in a claim based on the psychologist's failure to report suspected child abuse. Mother and Father, following their divorce, sought postdivorce parent coordinating and, after Mother made allegations that Father had sexually abused their daughter, the coordinator referred the daughter to the defendant in this case for evaluation and therapy.  The child's therapist did not report any suspected sexual abuse and, later, when the child's pediatrician made such a report, the Mother sued the therapist for medical malpractice on the basis of the therapist's failure to comply with Georgia's mandatory reporting statute.

The court held that summary judgment should have been granted to the therapist.  Rejecting the cases from other jurisdictions suggesting that a private cause of action based on reporting statutes should be available, the concluded that "there may well be a moral duty to report child abuse, if it is reasonably suspected. The legal duty to report, however, is imposed in Georgia by statute, and ... this statute does not give rise to a private cause of action for damages."

McGarrah v. Posig, 2006 Ga. App. LEXIS 954 (July 28, 2006) bgf

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