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					Perry(D – appellant) v. S.N. and S.N. (P – Appellee), Texas Supreme Court, 1998 Is it appropriate to impose tort liability for violations of the statute? Was it negligence per se based on the Family Code? Issue Reasoning
Main purpose: the protection of children. BN and KN are within the class of people the statute is trying to protect and they suffered the kind of injury the statute is trying to protect from. (both these apply – threshold for per se negligence is met)



Under common law, generally, there P’s children attended a day care facility operated by the is no duty to protect another from Kellers. The D’s were friends of the Kellers. criminal acts or to come to the aid of another in distress. Family Code: any person having cause to believe a child is being If the legislature adopts a criminal D’s were told by Mrs Keller that Mr Keller had abusive abused is required to report the abuse to state authorities and makes statute, that does not mean that courts habits toward the children. They also saw Mr. Keller take the the knowing failure to do so a misdemeanor. must accept it as std for civil liability. children to his adjoining house and sexually abuse them. When a statute criminalizes conduct governed by a common law duty, But when tort Not known whether the P’s children were among the abused. liability only based on statutory duties, then that’s a new kind of tort. People have a duty to obey criminal laws and are prosecuted for not doing so; but this is not equivalent to a duty in torts. This opinion gives guidelines for whether tort liability for violations of statutes should be imposed. o In most per se negligence cases, the D owes a pre-existing duty to act as a reasonable prudent person and statutes simply define what conduct constitutes breach. (traffic statutes) – In this case, applying negligence per se does not cause great change in the law. o Recognizing a new statuatory duty, brings a new kind of tort liability to Tort Law. Absence of relevant common law duty should be considered in deciding whether to apply negligence per se. Factors to consider: o Favoring per se: Criminal statutes give citizens notice of what conduct is required o (don’t quite understand the court’s logic against this one!) o Against per se: too obscure to put public on notice. o Does the statute clearly define the required or prohibited conduct? Yes, in this case! They were eyewitnesses to the abuse. o Does this create liability without fault? o In this case, it does not, because the statute criminalizes the “knowing” and failure to report – this weighs in favor of civil liability. o Does negligence per se impose ruinous liability disproportionate with the act? o Did the injury directly or indirectly result from the violation of the statute? o The indirect relationship between P’s ultimate injury and the violation of the statute is a factor against imposing tort liability.

Held Procedure P argues

Reversed. (P take nothing) – imposing negligence per se could not be limited to cases charging serious misconduct – it could impose immense potential liability under ill-defined stds on individuals whose relationship to the abuse is extremely indirect. We can’t impose per se negligence in this case. Summary judgment for D. Court of appeals reversed and remanded P’s negligence per se for new trial. D appeals The D’s violated the Family Code statute. Failure to report caused pain and mental anguish and allowed Keller to continue to abuse the children.

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Tags: Torts, Case, Briefs