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Brady v. Hopper
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
751 F.2d 329 (1984)
James Brady, Timothy McCarthy, and Thomas Delahanty (collectively, the gunshot victims) (plaintiffs) were shot and seriously injured by John Hinckley, Jr., during his attempted assassination of President Reagan. Dr. John Hopper, Jr. (defendant), a psychiatrist, had treated Hinckley on an outpatient basis for five months before the assassination attempt. The gunshot victims sued Hopper for negligence. However, the gunshot victims did not allege in the complaint that Hinckley made any threats regarding President Reagan or that Hinckley ever threatened anyone. At most, the gunshot victims’ complaint stated that a more careful interview of Hinckley would have revealed that Hinckley was obsessed with Jodie Foster and the movie Taxi Driver, that he collected material on President Ronald Reagan and assassination, and that he practiced shooting guns. According to the gunshot victims, Hopper should have learned through his interviews with Hinckley that Hinckley suffered from delusions and severe mental illness, as opposed to being merely maladjusted. The district court found that even if the facts and conclusions in the gunshot victims’ complaint were taken as true, they would not be sufficient to create a legal duty for Hopper to protect the gunshot victims from the specific harm by Hinckley. The district court concluded that Hopper did not owe a duty to the gunshot victims absent allegations that, in the foreseeability context, Hinckley had conveyed to Hopper specific threats against specific victims (i.e., the gunshot victims themselves). The court found that there was no relationship between Hopper and the gunshot victims that created any legal obligation from Hopper to the gunshot victims. The district court granted Hopper’s motion to dismiss for the gunshot victims’ failure to state a claim. The gunshot victims appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Barret, J.)
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