Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Minor Who Made a Statement to the Police that She Had Been Abused Was Protected by Absolute Litigation Privilege

Penal Code Section 11172 Liability for False or Reckless Reports of Child Abuse Applies Only to Third Parties and Not to the Alleged Victim

Chabak v. Monroy (Sept. 10, 2007, F049069, Fifth District)
19 p. opinion

A person cannot sue a minor for telling the police that the person had abused her. The statements that the minor made to the police are absolutely protected under the litigation privilege in Civil Code section 47(b).

The plaintiff here had argued that the controlling statute was Penal Code section 11172(a) which provides that someone who is not a mandated reporter is immune from suit "unless it can be proven that a false report was made and the person knew that the report was false or was made with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the report, and any person who makes a report of child abuse or neglect known to be false or with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the report is liable for any damages caused."

The Court of Appeal concluded that section 11172(a) was intended by the legislature to apply only to reports made by third parties. It would run completely contrary to the purpose of the Legislature's statutory scheme to increase reporting of child abuse to impose civil liability upon victims of child abuse.

The defendant in this action was 17 at the time of the alleged abuse. She made a statement to the police and, at the suggestion of the police, to her parents. She also spoke to a paralegal who was assisting her in filing a motion in court about the plaintiff's conduct. All of these conversations were covered by the litigation privilege.

As a result she had a complete affirmative defense to the plaintiff's action for false report of child abuse and slander. As a matter of law the plaintiff could not prevail. The defendant's anti-SLAPP motion to strike the complaint should have been granted.
Justice Cornell wrote the opinion. Acting Presiding Justice Vartabedian and Justice Wiseman concurred.

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