CASE BRIEF SAMPLE: Eric J. Smith, a minor, and Helen Smith v. Betty M. Figueroa (Cal. Appellate Case 1999)


The plaintiffs are Eric J. Smith, a minor, and Helen Smith. The defendant is Betty M. Figueroa, the mother of Robert Figueroa. Robert brought home his new girlfriend, plaintiff Helen Smith, and her eight-year-old son, plaintiff Eric J. Smith, a minor, to meet Robert’s mother, defendant Betty M. Figueroa. The relationship between Robert and Helen continued and Helen and Eric were guests several times in Betty’s home. No family member told Helen about Robert’s criminal history of felony child molestation. It was later discovered that Robert sexually molested Eric during some of these visits at his mother’s home, all the while Robert was on parole for child molestation. Robert was convicted of molesting Eric and sent back to prison. Helen filed a civil suit against Betty, claiming Betty had a duty to warn her about Robert’s criminal past and the potential danger to her child, and failing that duty that she were liable for money damages for the harm suffered by Eric. The trial court dismissed the case on a nonsuit motion.


Whether the trial court properly dismissed the negligence claim based on the premise that family members of a convicted child molester have no affirmative duty to disclose that information to the molester’s girlfriend who has an eight-year-old boy.


In the absence of a special relationship, family members of a convicted child molester, who have not created the danger or risk, have no affirmative duty to disclose information to another regarding the family member’s criminal past and potential danger.


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