of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Brown, Marcus L. Almon, Capitol City Law Group, LLC, Saint
Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
William M. Hart, Nicole L. Brand, Kathleen M. Ghreichi,
Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
appellant Thad Wilderson & Associates, P.A.
G. Van Bergen, Meaghan C. Bryan, Cousineau McGuire Chartered,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant Nina Mattson.
Nord Hunt, Michael N. Leonard, Lommen Abdo, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota
Nicholas B. Lienesch, Hans A. Anderson, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Board of Psychology.
Anderson, J. Took no part, Hudson, McKeig, JJ.
Immunity is not provided under Minn. Stat. § 148.975
(2014) for an unlicensed intern-therapist who discloses a
patient's threat of physical violence against a specific
person to law enforcement.
absolute privilege doctrine does not shield a clinic
employee's pretrial statements that disclosed the nature
and circumstances of a patient's confidential treatment
information either to law enforcement or, in preparation for
trial, to the prosecutors.
Because the record does not establish that the patient
consented to the disclosure of information about his
treatment, an intern-therapist's disclosure of that
information violated the Minnesota Health Records Act, Minn.
Stat. §§ 144.291-.298 (2014).
Jerry Expose, Jr. brought a civil action against appellant
Thad Wilderson & Associates, P.A. (the clinic) and
appellant Nina Mattson (collectively appellants), asserting
claims for unlawful disclosure of health records under the
Minnesota Health Records Act, §§ 144.291-.298
(2014), invasion of privacy, vicarious liability, and
negligent supervision. Appellants jointly moved for judgment
on the pleadings, and the district court dismissed the
claims. As relevant here, the district court ruled that
appellants are immune from liability under Minn. Stat. §
148.975 (2014), that they are immune from liability under the
common law doctrine of absolute privilege, and that Expose
consented to Mattson's disclosures. The court of appeals
reversed on all of these issues except the immunity under the
common law doctrine of absolute privilege as to the testimony
from the criminal trial. We granted the clinic's
petition, as well as Mattson's petition, for review.
three questions presented here arise in the context of a
relationship between a patient and an unlicensed
intern-therapist. First, we determine whether Minn. Stat.
§ 148.975, which imposes a duty to warn on a licensed
therapist when a specific, serious threat of physical
violence is made against a specific, clearly identified or
identifiable person, imposes the same duty on an unlicensed
intern-therapist to disclose that information to law
enforcement. Second, we determine whether the common law
doctrine of absolute privilege shields the disclosures made
by an unlicensed intern-therapist to law enforcement and to
prosecutors. Third, we determine whether a consent form
notifying a client of the client's rights under the
Minnesota Health Records Act authorizes the release of the
client's medical records. Because we answer all three
questions in the negative, we affirm the court of appeals.
March 2012, Expose was convicted of making terroristic
threats against his 6-year-old daughter, his daughter's
mother, and the mother's unborn child. As part of his
sentence, Expose was ordered to undergo anger-management
therapy. In September 2012, he began therapy at the clinic.
Before his first session, Expose signed a "Client Rights
and Responsibilities" form, which stated that
information he shared with his therapist would be
"treated as strictly confidential" unless certain
described events occurred. Mattson, an unlicensed
intern-therapist providing individual therapy under the
clinic's supervision, was Expose's
therapist. On October 10, 2012, during one of his
therapy sessions, Expose made statements that threatened
serious injury to the child protection caseworker assigned to
a custody case involving his daughter. Mattson reported
Expose's threats to her supervisor and then, at the
direction of her supervisor, to both local law enforcement
and to the caseworker.
on the statements he made to Mattson, Expose was arrested and
charged with one count of making terroristic threats under
Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (2014). The State
subpoenaed Mattson to testify at Expose's criminal trial
on this charge. In early January 2013, Mattson met with the
prosecutors who were assigned to Expose's case and
disclosed information about the threats Expose made at his
October 10 counseling session. Before trial, Expose moved to
exclude any testimony from Mattson about whether, in light of
her status as an unlicensed intern-therapist, she was
obligated under Minn. Stat. § 148.975 to disclose
Expose's alleged threats to fulfill a statutory duty to
warn. The district court denied Expose's motion. The
State then called Mattson as the first witness at trial.
Expose objected, arguing that the therapist-client privilege
prohibited Mattson from testifying. The district court
overruled Expose's objection, reasoning that the
therapist-client privilege did not cover statements
threatening imminent harm to a person or persons.
found Expose guilty of making terroristic threats, and the
district court sentenced him to a stayed term of 28 months in
prison. Expose appealed his conviction, arguing that
Mattson's trial testimony was inadmissible under the
therapist-client privilege. The court of appeals agreed with
Expose and reversed his conviction, holding that the
therapist-client privilege prohibited Mattson from testifying
about information she learned during Expose's therapy
sessions, including the content of Expose's threats.
See State v. Expose, 849 N.W.2d 427, 437 (Minn.App.
2014). The court of appeals further held that admitting
Mattson's testimony was prejudicial because Expose's
privileged statements could not have been admitted through
the testimony of any other witness. Id. at 436-37.
granted review on three issues in Expose's criminal case,
including whether the therapist-client privilege, which
prohibits therapists from disclosing information or opinions
in court that are acquired from clients in the
therapist's professional capacity, see Minn.
Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(g) (2014), contains an exception
for threatening statements made by the client, State v.
Expose, 872 N.W.2d 252, 256 (Minn. 2015). We held that
there is no "threats exception" to the statutory
therapist-client privilege. Id. at 259. We concluded
that the duty to warn imposed by Minn. Stat. § 148.975
creates a discrete duty to warn the potential victim of a
specific serious threat of physical violence and that the
duty is discharged once the threat is communicated to the
potential victim or to a law enforcement agency.
Expose, 872 N.W.2d at 258. The therapist-client