Under the Child Abuse and Neglect provisions of the California Penal Code, doctors have a statutory obligation to report to authorities a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect that they discovered within their scope of employment or professional capacity. (Penal Code § 11165.7.) If a doctor does come across a case of reasonable suspicion of child abuse and does not report it, that doctor may liable for the resulting injuries in a negligence cause of action.

In addition, that same set of statutes that mandate that a doctor report suspected child abuse also provides them qualified immunity from civil and criminal liability for those reports. This qualified immunity attaches for a doctor reporting under the Child Abuse and Neglect Statute even if there is no reasonable suspicion of child abuse, i.e. even if the doctor’s report was negligent, reckless or even intentionally false. The reasoning is simple: we want to encourage doctors and other mandated reporters under the statute to freely report suspected child abuse to authorities without the fear of repercussion.

This statute, however, only protects people that are “mandated reporters” in the statute. So third-parties, such as police and the like, who act negligently upon this information may be liable. For these individuals, you may want to speak a tort attorney regarding pursuing a negligence or infliction of emotional distress claim.