Parker v. Dodgion

In Parker v. Dodgion, 971 P.2d 496 (Utah 1998), a father brought a negligence action against a court-appointed psychologist. The parties were involved in a continuing custody and visitation dispute concerning their daughter. The court appointed a psychologist to perform evaluations of the parties, to provide the court with a report of his findings, and to make recommendations as to what custody arrangements would be in the child's best interests. The psychologist recommended that the father not be given custody or visitation because he fit the profile of a sexual abuser. The father filed a complaint against the psychologist, alleging that as a result of the psychologist's negligent evaluation, he suffered various injuries, including monetary damages, loss of custody, and emotional distress. The father alleged that because the psychologist negligently administered the tests, he was mistakenly taken to fit the profile of a sexual abuser. The Utah Supreme Court, in determining that the psychologist was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity, reasoned as follows: The question we must answer, then, is whether a psychologist, appointed by the court to assist it in making a custody determination, performs a function integral to the judicial process. In applying the functional approach to determining immunity questions, "the question is whether the activities undertaken by the party are 'functions to which the reasons for absolute immunity apply with full force.'" Delcourt v. Silverman, 919 S.W.2d 777, 782 (Tex.Ct.App.1996) (quoting Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430, 96 S. Ct. 984, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128 (1976)). In short, a father brought a negligence action against the defendant, a court-appointed psychologist, alleging that the defendant was negligent in performing his evaluation and administering tests profiling the plaintiff as a sexual abuser, and in recommending that the plaintiff not be given custody or visitation of his daughter. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that he was entitled to judicial immunity. Id. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's claims with prejudice. Id.