Perry v. S.N & S.N. Case Brief

Summary of Perry v. S.N & S.N., Texas S. Ct. 1998

Relevant Facts: The children of Pl were being sexually and physically abused by the husband and co-owner of a day care facility. Friends of the owner’s had direct knowledge the abuse was occurring and failed to report it to the authorities as required by statute, nor did they attempt to stop the activity.

Legal Issue(s): Whether Pl can maintain an action for negligence for Df violations of statute requiring them to report the abuse of children?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Trial ct. granted summary for Df, Ct. of App affirmed summary, but reversed and remanded on issues of negligence per se and gross neg. Reversed.

Law or Rule(s): A duty to obey the criminal law is not equivalent to a duty in tort. Conditions for a ct to determine whether imposing tort liability for violations of the statute is fair, workable, and wise.

Court Rationale: The children are within a class of persons whom the statute seeks to protect, and they suffered the kind of injury the statute intended to prevent.To impose tort liability upon third parties would create great changes in tort liability law. At common law there is not general duty to protect another from the criminal acts of a third party or to come to the aid of another in distress. Based on this ct’s practice and the observations of noted scholars, we conclude that the absence of a relevant common law duty should be considered in deciding whether to apply negligence per se to the statute.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The duty of care for the Df would be established by the statute requiring them to report child abuse.

Defendant’s Argument: Df did not have knowledge of the conduct, only possible awareness or suspicion.

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