Friday, November 16, 2012

Randi W. v. Muroc Joint Unified School District case brief

Randi W. v. Muroc Joint Unified School District
CA Supreme Court (1997)

FACTS
-The plaintiff, Randi, accused four school districts writing letters of recommendation for a teacher they knew to have a history of sexual misdeeds with students.
-Randi alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Gadams, an assistant principal who had received a job at her school.
-The previous school districts knowingly concealed Gadams’ past allegations and resignations for sexual misconduct with students

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
-The only issues discussed here are those of misrepresentation and fraud.
-The superior court granted demurrers on both counts to defense, court of appeals reversed.-Plaintiff appealed to supreme court.

ISSUE
Under CA law, does negligence arise from non-disclosure of past sexual misconduct when a teacher sexually assaults a student at a new school after being hired due to letters of recommendation that do not explain his resignation and/or allegations of sexual misconduct?

HOLDING
-Yes. The schools had a duty to inform the hiring school of those qualities that could possibly cause harm to a third party.Reasoning:

Did defendants owe a duty of care?
-Defendant argued that there was no special relationship present that required them to disclose.
-Courts have held in previous cases that if you begin to communicate information, you are required to deliver all pertinent information.


ANALYSIS

Foreseeability of harm to the P, and connection between harm and D.
Availability of insurance or alternate courses of conduct.
Public policy considerations (moral blame, preventing future harm, etc.)

Foreseeability:
  • Assault was reasonably foreseeable.
  • Defendant’s actions form a causal connection to the assault.
  • Availability of Insurance (Insurance existed; standard business liability.)
  • The defendants had alternate courses of conduct they could have pursued:
  1. They could have refused to write a letter of recommendation.
  2. They could have written a letter of full disclosure.
  3. They could have written a no-comment letter.
Public Policy:
  • The disclosure owes to a third person not to misrepresent the facts;
  • Not disclosing the whole truth is in fact, lying, or misrepresenting. If it is understood to be the whole.
  • Could be characterized as morally blameworthy.
Misleading or Misrepresentation?

The fact that omissions were made in this case allows for the exception to the rule excluding liability for mere non-disclosure or failure to act.

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