A recent ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals means that a Houghton County couple may actually have grounds for a malpractice suit against a counselor. The parents say the counselor implanted false memories of sexual abuse in their 17-year-old daughter’s mind.
According to the Court, a health professional has a duty to protect third parties who might be harmed by the use of techniques which may lead to false recollections of sexual abuse. Which for Lale and Joan Roberts, was exactly what happened.
Court documents show that, after discovering that a family friend had involved their youngest daughter in some form of sexually inappropriate behavior, they sought counseling for her. However, in what appears to be a classic case of biting the hand that feeds you, the counselor they hired used a number of questionable methods in her therapy sessions. The result was catastrophic for the family.
After the use of Hypnotherapy and Recovered Memory Therapy, their daughter claims to have remembered that her father has sexually abused her from the age of 5 until now. Her therapist, one Kathryn Salmi, then reported Lale to police.
However, after intensive investigations performed by the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Human Services, no evidence was found of any sexual abuse having been committed by Lale against his daughter.
But by then the damage was done. For many, the mere act of accusing someone of sexual abuse of a child is enough to imply guilt. Lale’s name and reputation were now damaged in his community.
As a result, the Roberts’ brought suit against Salmi. They accused her of not taking care to prevent the false information from leaking out into the community; causing trouble for the family by subjecting them to invasive investigations and ruining their relationship with their daughter.
The court has stood by them in this case, saying that Salmi did indeed owe them a duty of care. “We conclude that the relationship between a mental health professional and his or her patient’s parents is sufficiently close and the foreseeability of the harm is sufficiently strong to weigh in favor of a limited duty of care.”
The case has now been remanded to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court for trial.