Jul 2

State Dept. of State Hospitals v. Sup. Ct. (June 1, 2015): Analyzing Proximate Cause

<em>State Dept. of State Hospitals v. Sup. Ct.</em> (June 1, 2015): Analyzing Proximate Cause

Molshree Gupta, Esq.

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of California revisited the standard for pleading and establishing proximate causation in civil actions. On June 1, 2015, the supreme court, in State Dept. of State Hospitals, held that the State Department of Mental Health’s breach of its duty to designate a second evaluator pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) for evaluation of a prisoner was not a proximate cause of rape and murder committed by a prisoner four days after his release. The court reasoned that in order to establish that the appointment of a second evaluator would have prevented the prisoner’s release, plaintiff would have been required to do more than ask the court to theorize that a subsequent unbroken series of discretionary findings contradicting the first evaluator’s conclusion would have led to civil commitment (and consequently a speculative avoidance of harm). As such, the supreme court held that plaintiff’s assertions as to proximate causation were too speculative, and the agency’s breach of its mandatory duty did not support liability under the Government Claims Act.
Read the full decision of the Supreme Court of California here.