Maryland nursing homes have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for residents. But how far does this responsibility go towards others? In a recent case, the plaintiff sued a nursing facility he was shot by a resident. He argued that the facility had a duty to warn others of the danger the resident posed, as her mental health provider.
According to the court’s opinion, the resident was living at the defendant facility at the time, which was a therapeutic community residence. The resident had a history of mental illness, including multiple admissions for psychiatric care, restraining orders prohibiting her from contacting certain persons, and a criminal record, which prohibited her from possessing a firearm or other weapons. The resident went to a shooting range and shot the owner of the shooting range in the head and stomach. The owner survived but sustained serious injuries that required constant medical attention for the rest of his life.
The plaintiff claimed that the facility knew or should have known that the resident posed a serious risk of danger to third parties, and had a duty to warn him. The court determined that the facility did not have a duty to prevent the resident from harming the plaintiff. The court explained that the general rule is that there is no duty to act to prevent harm to third persons. The court noted that mental health professionals in that state have a limited duty to take reasonable action to protect identified third parties that their patients have threatened serious physical harm. However, the court found that in this case, the resident had only told the facility that she wanted to go target shooting “as a way for her to deal with aggression.” Accordingly, this did not make the owner part of a determinate and identifiable class that faced a particularized threat, and the facility did not have a duty to protect him or warn him.