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Randi W. v. Muroc Joint Unified School District

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Randi W. (Plaintiff) sued Muroc Joint Unified School District (Defendant) and three other school districts for fraudulently or negligently providing positive recommendations for a teacher who ultimately sexually assaulted Plaintiff.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A person writing a letter of recommendation has a duty to third parties not to misrepresent the facts in the letter if those misrepresentations could present a substantial, foreseeable risk of physical injury to the third party.

    Facts.

    A person writing a letter of recommendation has a duty to third parties not to misrepresent the facts in the letter if those misrepresentations could present a substantial, foreseeable risk of physical injury to the third party.

    Issue.

    Does a person providing a letter of recommendation have a duty to third parties not to misrepresent the facts in that letter if those misrepresentations could present a substantial, foreseeable risk of physical injury to the third party?

    Held.

    (Chin, J.) Yes. A person writing a letter of recommendation has a duty to third parties not to misrepresent the facts in the letter if those misrepresentations could present a substantial, foreseeable risk of physical injury to the third party. The reference letters contained affirmative misrepresentations and were false in light the fact that Defendant knew of the charges made against the teacher when the letters were written. The negligent misrepresentation and fraud charges are affirmed. As for the negligence per se claim made under the child abuse reporting statute, however, the Defendant school districts were never custodians of Plaintiff. Since Plaintiff was not a member of the class for whose protection the child abuse reporting statute was enacted, she has no standing to sue under that statute. Affirmed in part, reversed in part.

    Discussion.

    Three judges dissented from the holding that Plaintiff did not have standing to sue under the child abuse reporting statute. These judges felt the court should construe the intended class to be protected by that statute proudly to include all children who foreseeably could be protected from future abuse by reporting suspected child abuse.



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