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150919 - Lale Roberts v Kathryn Salmi, LPC

Lale Roberts and Joan Roberts,
 
Zachary C. Kemp
 
Plaintiffs-Appellees,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Houghton - Solka, T.)
 
Kathryn Salmi, LPC, d/b/a Salmi Christian Counseling,
 
Beth A. Whittmann
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 

Summary

Plaintiffs Lale and Joan Roberts sent their 17-year-old daughter to defendant Kathryn Salmi for counseling.  During the therapy sessions, the daughter claimed to remember that her father physically and sexually abused her. Salmi reported these allegations to Children’s Protective Services.  During the ensuing investigation, the daughter also accused her mother of molesting her.  No criminal charges were ever brought.  The plaintiffs sued Salmi for medical malpractice, alleging among other things that she improperly implanted or reinforced false memories of abuse in their daughter’s mind.  The trial judge held that Salmi did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs, and dismissed their lawsuit.  But the Court of Appeals reversed in a split published opinion.  The majority held that Michigan’s common law recognizes a duty of care to third parties who might foreseeably be harmed by a mental health professional’s use of techniques that cause a patient to have false memories of sexual abuse.  The dissenting judge concluded that whether a mental health professional owes a duty to a patient’s parents under these circumstances is a policy decision best left to the Legislature. Salmi appealed to the Supreme Court.  On September 16, 2015, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal to consider “whether a mental health professional has a duty of care to third parties who might foreseeably be harmed by the mental health professional’s use of techniques that cause a patient to have false memories of sexual abuse.”