September 09, 2003

Law Quote of the Day

Now, we all know that title is a total lie because I won't be able to make a new blog entry every day since I'm so busy with my reading and all... but since I'm so busy with reading, I'm sure that I'll find something sufficiently shocking, infuriating and/or interesting enough every day to share with you all. Although I'm only in my 3rd week of law school, I've already read a lot of stuff I find amazingly *ucked up and totally infuriating. So, without further ado, your quote of the day...

"...the California Supreme Court ruled that a member of the
public who 'was a reasonably foreseeable victim.... [by] that factor
alone does not... establish a special relationship with the
[police] officers imposing upon them a duty to warn or protect."
(Davidson v. City of Westminster (Cal. 1982) 649 P.2d 894, 900.)

That just blows my mind. I always thought police were just lazy and brainwashed with their lock-up-the-bad-guys rhetoric to actually protect and serve, but this shows that they don't even have a legal duty to protect and serve! Talk about a big, fat lie... I couldn't find the text to this case on line just now (I'm not allowed access to automated legal research until my second year), but I did find it cited in the following two places.

1. Tipton v. City of Tabor, 1997 SD 96:
A widely accepted corollary to the public duty doctrine is the "special duty" or "special relationship" rule. [fn12] See Restatement of Torts (Second) 315 (1965). To establish liability under this restrictive template, plaintiffs must show a breach of some duty owed to them as individuals. The reason justifying this exception holds that when a public entity acts on behalf of a particular person actively causing injury, the law may impose liability because the government has by its conduct already made a policy decision to deploy its resources to protect such individual. [fn13] This exception is not peculiar to the public duty rule; it follows the tort principle, most suitable with respect to rendering service to another, that persons are generally not liable for failure to act, but once having acted, must proceed without negligence. See generally Restatement (Second) of Torts 324A (1965); Davidson v. City of Westminster, 649 P2d 894 (Cal 1982). While many plaintiffs have invoked the special duty rule to support claims against public entities, most courts have found no liability for matters such as failure to adequately inspect a structure for violations of fire and building codes, Benson v. Kutsch, 380 SE2d 36, 40 (WVa 1989) (citing cases); failure to solve crime, Von Batsch v. American Dist. Telegraph Co., 222 CalRptr 239 (CalCtApp 1985); or failure to apprehend drunk drivers who later injure others. James L. Isham, Annotation, Failure to Restrain Drunk Drivers as Ground of Liability of State or Local Government Unit or Officer, 48 ALR4th 320 (1986).

2. This kinda scary and totally sensationalist rant about how the lack of legal duty of police officers to warn and protect potential victims justifies and even requires citizens to own and guns to protect themselves from criminals. Although I disagree with the conclusions of this rant, the fact that the police do not have such a legal duty only strengthens the arguments and fears of people like this. If Americans feel unsafe and that those assigned to protect them can't or won't do the job, what other recourse do they have? I often feel unsafe and vulnerable, and I definitely feel like the police aren't and won't be there to help me out if I'm ever in need, but I'm still not going to go out and get a gun or encourage others to do so. Guns are scary, too.

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Comments

Your law quote of the day kind of corresponds with a case I read about recently. The family of a man who died in an accident where he was thrown over the side of a cliff or bridge (I can't remember) was trying to sue two CHP officers who were on duty and knew about the accident, but claimed it wasn't in their job description to deal with situations like that. !!??!!

Posted by: robyn at September 13, 2003 02:50 AM

Yeah, I don't see how they can see how it's their duty to catch "bad guys" for the sake of "public safety" when they don't keep the public safe in any direct way.

Posted by: Kristina at September 16, 2003 07:46 AM
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