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Smith v. Robinson

Supreme Court of Utah

July 5, 2018

Rocio Smith, Appellant,
v.
Kayelyn Robinson, Appellee.

          On Direct Appeal Fourth District, Spanish Fork The Honorable M. James Brady No. 150300034

          Sara Pfrommer, Ronald D. Wilkinson, Nathan S. Shill, Orem, for appellant

          James Egan, Stephen W. Owens, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Justice Himonas authored the opinion of the court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Pearce, and Judge Pettit joined.

          Due to her retirement, Justice Durham did not participate herein; District Court Judge Kara Pettit sat.

          Justice Petersen became a member of the Court on November 17, 2017, after oral argument in this matter and accordingly did not participate.

          OPINION

          HIMONAS, JUSTICE

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶ 1 This case presents the question of whether a treating therapist owes a duty of reasonable care to a nonpatient parent when treating that parent's child for potential allegations of sexual abuse. We answer this question in Mower v. Baird, 2018 UT 29, __ P.3d __, a companion case that we also decide today. There, we hold that a treating therapist "owes a duty to a minor patient's parents to refrain from affirmative acts that recklessly violate the standard of care in a manner that gives rise to false memories or false allegations of sexual abuse committed by the plaintiff nonpatient parent." Mower, 2018 UT 29, ¶ 114. We remand this case for proceedings consistent with our opinion in Mower.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶ 2 Rocio Smith had two children with her ex-husband, Aaron Smith.[1] Mr. Smith and his new wife (Stepmother) made several allegations that Ms. Smith had sexually abused the children. Mr. Smith filed a petition to terminate Ms. Smith's parental rights.

         ¶ 3 After this, Stepmother brought the children to Kayelyn Robinson for therapy and told Ms. Robinson that therapy was being sought because of the alleged sexual abuse. Ms. Robinson improperly relied upon the information provided by Mr. Smith and Stepmother and made allegations that Ms. Smith had sexually abused the children. During treatment, Ms. Robinson also inappropriately acted as a treatment provider and forensic evaluator. Ms. Robinson worked with Mr. Smith and Stepmother to actively advocate against Ms. Smith. Despite Ms. Robinson's clear conflict of interest, she continued providing therapy to the children.

         ¶ 4 At one point, the court hearing the custody dispute ordered Ms. Robinson to stop acting as the children's therapist and to have no further contact with the children. Ms. Robinson blatantly violated this court order. Additionally, Ms. Robinson used somebody else's key to access the children's HIPPA-protected records and provided them to the parties, their attorneys, and the court.

         ¶ 5 As a result of Ms. Robinson's actions, Ms. Smith lost visitation with her children for several years and "endured personal defamation, lost income and employment, and incurred enormous legal expenses."[2] Ms. Smith filed suit against Ms. Robinson ...


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