Therapists’ duty to disclose client’s threats to harm third parties

State v. Expose, No. A13-1285, 2015 WL 8343119 (Minn. Dec. 9, 2015)

Minnesota statutory law provides no “threats exception” to privileged mental health client information

Background: Jerry Expose, Jr. was required as a probation condition for a prior conviction to attend anger-management therapy sessions with N.M., a mental-health practitioner. During one session, Expose became increasingly angry and made several threatening statements against D.P., a child caseworker, whom Expose felt was “a barrier to him getting his kids back.” N.M. felt that these “specific threats of physical violence against an identifiable person” had triggered her statutory duty to warn, and she reported Expose’s statements to the police. N.M. testified to the statements at Expose’s trial, and Expose was convicted in the Ramsey County District Court of making terroristic threats. Expose appealed arguing that N.M.’s testimony was inadmissible because it broke the therapist-client privilege. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, and the Supreme Court of Minnesota granted review.

Holdings: The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the district court. The Supreme Court held that the therapist-client privilege statute, as an evidentiary rule, lacked a “threats exception” either “by implication from the duty-to-warn statute or under our authority to promulgate rules of evidence.” Thus, the Court found that the district court had abused its discretion in allowing N.M. to testify about Expose’s statements without his consent.

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 34, Issue 4