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Emerich v. Phila. Center for Human Dev.
720 A.2d 1032, Pa., PA, 11/25/1998
Category Victim v. Third Party 
Topic Mental Health Facilities 
Filename Failure to Warn 
Crime Homicide 
Location Mental health facility 
Prevailing Party Defendant 
Other Parties Philadelphia Center for Human Development, Inc. Albert Einstein Healthcare Foundation, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Harvey Friedrich, ACSW, Anthony J. Scuderi, M.Div., Cac and Hacan Ulus, Administratrix of Estate of Ahmet Ulus, M.D. 
Holding

Statement of Facts: On the morning of June 27, 1991, Gad Joseph called his counselor, Anthony Scuderi, to inform him that he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend and cohabitant, Teresa Hausler. Joseph had a history of abusing his former spouse and Hausler. Scuderi immediately scheduled an emergency therapy session that same morning, where Joseph told Scuderi of his desire to kill Hausler if she came home to retrieve her belongings. When the therapy session ended at 12:00 noon, Joseph gave Scuderi his assurances that he would not harm Hausler. At 12:15, Scuderi received a phone call from Hausler that she was in Philadelphia to retrieve her clothing. Scuderi advised her not to go to the apartment and to return to Reading. Hausler ignored the advice and was subsequently murdered when she encountered Joseph at her apartment at 12:30. Five minutes later, Joseph called Scuderi and informed him what happened, and Scuderi notified the police. Joseph was convicted of murder. Hausler's estate filed a wrongful death and survival suit against a variety of defendants, including Scuderi, alleging that he failed to properly warn Hausler and others, including family, friends and police, that Joseph presented a clear and present danger of harm to Hausler. The trial court granted the defendants' judgment on the pleadings, holding that a duty to warn a third party had not been adopted in Pennsylvania; and that even if such a duty did exist, Scuderi's warning was sufficient to fulfill that duty. Emerich appealed. Holding: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas. The Court held that the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Tarasoff v. Regent of Univ. of California was consistent with Pennsylvania case law, which recognized a special relationship between a mental health professional and his patient. Thus, a duty to warn a third party does exist in the state, limited to specifically or readily identifiable victims with the standard being that of reasonable care. The majority rejected the defendants' argument that (1) the unpredictability of violent behavior and (2) the physician-patient privilege should preclude any duty to warn. In this case, the judgment was affirmed because Scuderi's warning fulfilled his duty to warn, and Hausler's ignoring of that warning was the proximate cause of her death. Judges Nigro and Newman dissented in the judgment, arguing that Scuderi merely told Hausler not to go to her apartment without telling her that she was in danger. While the majority inferred that this was a warning, the pleadings failed to show that Hausler treated it as such. 


Damage Award none 
Victim's Counsel     
Plaintiff's Counsel David W. Fischer, Philadelphia 
Plaintiff's Expert      
Defense Counsel Paul A. Lauricella, Joseph Goldberg, Deborah Doyle, Claire Neiger, Peter S. Miller, Charles W. Craven, Philadelphia 
Defense Expert

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