A $12 million lawsuit filed by the family of a DC man who died of a heart attack last January after waiting over 30 minutes for an ambulance, has been dismissed.
Durand A. Ford Sr., 71, died on January 1, 2013. In July, his family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against DC Fire & EMS and Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.
Last week, D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal E. Kravitz dismissed the suit. News reports are saying the four page decision cited “public duty” as a grounds for the ruling, but it is unclear from the reports whether the decision was based on the public duty doctrine or on some type of governmental immunity.
According to the Washington Post: “The existing District liability laws involving public duty have been the subject of debate among judges within the D.C. Court of Appeals during previous cases.”
I am hoping to get a copy of the ruling and will post it once available. The public duty doctrine holds that a governmental entity cannot be held liable for failing to meet a duty that is owed to the public in general. Liability can only be created when a special duty to a specific person is breached causing injury. A special duty requires the creation of a relationship between the governmental entity and the victim, most commonly by governmental actors making assurances to the victim knowing that the victim will reasonably relying on the assurances. When the victim does rely upon the assurances a special duty is created. Simply calling 911 is not enough to create a special duty as the duty to respond to 911 calls is a duty owed to the general public, not to any specific individual.
If any of our friends in DC can get a copy of the opinion, it would be much appreciated. I was not able to access one from the court's web site.