Wisconsin Court of Appeals
Torts — immunity
Licensed clinical social workers assisting law enforcement officers with emergency detention decisions under sec. 51.15 are immune from civil liability for actions taken in good faith.
“This interpretation avoids the absurd and unreasonable results that would follow from a narrow reading of WIS. STAT. § 51.15(11). See Kalal, 271 Wis. 2d 633, ¶46 (absurd and unreasonable results to be avoided when construing statutes). The ultimate determination whether to detain an individual rests with law enforcement officials, but they are not prohibited from consulting others when making this important decision. According to Pabich, law enforcement officers in the Oconto County Sheriff’s Department generally do not possess the education, experience, and specialized training of licensed clinical social workers. We suspect this is true throughout the state. It would be absurd to immunize the officials responsible for formally taking a person into custody, but not the people upon whose advice they regularly rely. Further, trained mental health professionals should not be discouraged, because of civil liability, from providing predetention advice to officers. To do so increases the risk of inaccurate assessments.”
Recommended for publication in the official reports.
Dist. III, Oconto County, Miron, J., Mangerson, J.
Attorneys: For Appellant: Bachhuber, Bruce R., Green Bay; For Respondent: Smith, Andrew P., Rhinelander