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.
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.