Short Title

Evolution of the Tarasoff Duty


Since the first Tarasoff decision in 1974, the question of mental health professionals’ “duty to protect” third-parties has been a topic of vigorous debate. The ensuing forty-three years witnessed considerable shifts in the statutory and legal landscape in the United States, including several significant changes in California state law over the past decade alone. In this historical review, I trace the evolution of the Tarasoff duty with a specific focus on the state in which that duty originated, California, with the intention of elucidating the major policy, ethical, and practical questions that have followed in the wake of the Tarasoff decision.