Supreme Court of California - 14 Cal. 4th 1066
The case involves the liability of employers who fail to disclose material information about former employees' fitness when recommending them for employment. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants provided negligent recommendations for Robert Gadams to Fresno Pacific College's placement office, despite knowing of Gadams' prior inappropriate conduct, including sexual misconduct charges and disciplinary actions taken against him. The Court of Appeal upheld the plaintiff's complaint against the defendants for fraud and negligent misrepresentation, citing sections 310 and 311 of the Restatement Second of Torts. The court declined to extend the "special relationship" test to the employer-employee relationship. The issue before the court is one of first impression, and the court will apply general analytical principles to determine the existence of duty in this case. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's ruling on the counts of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and negligence per se, finding that the plaintiff's complaint sufficiently stated a cause of action for fraud and negligent misrepresentation, as the defendants' letters contained misleading representations regarding Gadams's qualifications. The majority also ruled that the complaint stated a cause of action for negligence per se, as the defendants allegedly breached their statutory duty under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act to report the charges of sexual misconduct involving Gadams to the authorities.
The Court of Appeal's judgment as to count 5 (negligence per se) is reversed, and the trial court's order sustaining defendant's general demurrer to count 5 is affirmed. The plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded a cause of action for negligence under the doctrine of negligence per se. The plaintiff's theory is that the three defendant school districts violated the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act by failing to report Robert Gadams's prior incidents of sexual misconduct with students. The plaintiff belongs to the protected class of children who could have been protected from abuse if the defendants had complied with the Reporting Act. The defendants are liable under the doctrine of negligence per se for the damages suffered by the plaintiff due to her molestation by Gadams.
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