A Feel-Good Decission That Will Be Reversed.

The only armed deputy stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day of Nikolas Cruz’s deadly rampage asked a Broward judge on Wednesday to find he had “no legal duty” to protect the students and faculty from harm.

The judge rejected his argument.

Scot Peterson, who resigned from the Broward Sheriff’s Office in late February and is accused of shirking his responsibility by hiding instead of confronting Cruz, wanted Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of Meadow Pollack, one of 17 people shot and killed in the Parkland school on Feb. 14.

“We want to say he had an obligation, but the law isn’t that,” said Peterson’s lawyer, Michael Piper. “From a legal standpoint, there was no duty.”

Englander Henning saw it differently, finding Peterson had a duty to the school community as someone whose job was security and who had an “obligation to act reasonably” under the circumstances of the shooting.

Scot Peterson argues he didn’t have to intervene in Parkland school shooting. A judge disagrees.

What the judge did was an act of cruelty.  We are well aware of SCOTUS decisions on No Duty To Protect and unless she is trying to establish that being assigned as a School Resource Officer is interpreted as ” Special Relationship” which is the exception to No Duty To Protect. 

I found this excellent paper explaining the Special Relationship exception. And as usual IANAL warning.

To establish a special relationship, a plaintiff has the burden of proving: (1) an assumption by the municipality, through promises or actions, of an affirmative duty to act on behalf of the party who was injured; (2) knowledge on the part of the municipality’s agents that inaction could lead to harm; (3) some form of direct contact between the municipality’s agents and the injured party; and (4) the injured party’s justifiable reliance on the municipality’s affirmative undertaking.5 All four elements must be proven, and if not, the claim will fail.

Right off the bat and with the first item, the judge’s decision seems to come apart:

The first element, an assumption by the municipality, through promises or actions, of an affirmative duty to act on behalf of the injured party, usually involves a clear promise to take specific action on behalf of a specific individual. The promise must be definite enough to generate justifiable reliance by a plaintiff. Vague and ambiguous assurances are general statements that do not rise to the level of an affirmative duty to protect an individual.

Unless the sad sack Scot Peterson made a clear promise to Meadow Pollack as required by the SCOTUS decision, there is no exception by Special Relationship of No Duty to Protect. Since this was not probably not the case, the decision cannot stand. I just cannot believe that the judge ignored this and went ahead with the decision just to make Peterson spend money on appeals. Although it might be a satisfactory feeling, it is a waste of time and taxpayer’s money to possibly engage in legal spite.

I do believe in Karma and Peterson has a bill coming.

 

 

14 Replies to “A Feel-Good Decission That Will Be Reversed.”

  1. The only thing about this case I like is that it forces Peterson to admit that he had no duty to protect in court.

    He has to say it over and over again “you gullible assholes paid me to be security and when I ran away like a chicken shit, there is nothing you can do about that.”

    Maybe having him say it will finally make it sink in to these Leftists that the bureaucracy cannot be trusted.

    1. Mr. J: your (forlorn) hope presumes that leftists arrive at their positions through thought, investigation, and contemplation. I believe that the evidence tells us that they will rarely abandon their religion after contrary revelations. Rather, they will ascribe these revelations to some variant of their version of Satan, and believe on.

  2. IANAL, but maybe “loco parentis”?
    (the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent)
    Could that legally apply here?

  3. I can’t say I’m surprised by this, but it serves a useful purpose. The more frequently the public has “No Duty To Protect” rubbed into their faces, the more they’ll understand that:
    1- Police aren’t the hero-Supermen beyond reproach we wish they were;
    2- In the crunch, you’ll have to take care of yourself because you can’t believe the uniforms are going to do it for you;
    and 3- Anyone who wants to take your guns wants you to be a helpless victim.

  4. Hard disagree.

    You assert that one of the qualifying factors to determine a “Special Relationship” doesn’t exist. Specifically, that there existed no “assumption by the municipality, through promises or actions, of an affirmative duty to act on behalf of the party who was injured;”

    Um, that special relationship is at the very core of Mr. Peterson’s hiring as a School Resource Officer. He would have a tenuous argument if he were simply a Deputy; but this was his SPECIFIC ASSIGNMENT.”

    At the very least, the position’s existence implies a covenant of some sort between the municipality and the children who attend the school.

    If that doesn’t establish a “special relationship,” then I don’t know what does.

  5. “>>>I don’t know what does.”
    Actually it’s so close to “nothing does” that the difference is ‘noise’.

    As Miguel pointed out; “to an individual”
    and that must be for all intents and purposes a preexisting contractual promissory statement made to a
    specifically named person, or persons.

    That would mean the prescience to contract with those killed/wounded in advance. Sorry, this will make for good headlines in the local fishwrap and online, but not mush elsewhere.

    What the judge is probably doing is ‘the process is the punishment’ via whatever legal torture Peterson will have to endure and pay his counsel.

    Also, the cynical side of me considers that judges are almost always lawyers and they look back on their pre-judge days and remember that non-judge lawyers make their living by billable hours. Lots of billable hours.

    1. The quote says, “usually involves a clear promise to take specific action on behalf of a specific individual.”

      “USUALLY involves a clear promise….”

      The guidelines also mention “injured party” multiple times, but don’t clarify if that “party” must be an individual, or if the term can apply to groups as well.

      If we’re talking “cop as personal bodyguard”, then the “specific individual” language applies. But Peterson was a School Resource Officer, assigned to the school, not to a specific student. It could be argued (and the judge apparently believes) that being hired as a School Resource Officer creates that “Special Relationship” with the student body, while at the school and during school hours/events.

      He didn’t have to make a clear promise to Meadow Pollack, specifically. He (and Sheriff Israel) made that promise to the Broward County School District and to MSD High School. By not entering the school, Peterson failed to protect the student body, as he was expected and duty-bound to do. And by not directing his deputies to enter the school (and by appointing lackeys instead of leaders to leadership positions), Sheriff Israel failed to fulfill his duty, too.

      I actually think under the circumstances the judge made the right call here – and no, that’s not just about punishing Deputy Peterson; one of the reasons for the SRO program is to keep the school and students safe, which creates that duty to protect.

      Not that it won’t be reversed later by a more-leftist judge, but….

    2. “In nothing did the founders of this country so demonstrate their essential naivete than in attempting to constrain government from all its favorite abuses, and entrusting the enforcement of those protections to judges; that is to say, men who had been lawyers; that is to say, men professionally trained in finding plausible excuses for dishonest and dishonorable acts.” — H. L. Mencken

  6. I think Dave P hit it on the head as to why this ruling (regardless of how good or bad it may be) is useful;

    “it serves a useful purpose. The more frequently the public has “No Duty To Protect” rubbed into their faces, the more they’ll understand that:
    1- Police aren’t the hero-Supermen beyond reproach we wish they were;
    2- In the crunch, you’ll have to take care of yourself because you can’t believe the uniforms are going to do it for you;
    and 3- Anyone who wants to take your guns wants you to be a helpless victim.”

    And given how useless the judicial oligarchy tends to be in their mis-interpretation of clear English, I think in this case it benefited POTG and is well worth the tax money wasted. Better wasted for our side for once, rather than the other side, as it always seem to be.

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