Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

MD Court of Appeals to the public: “Your own your own”

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, April 15, 2007

From the Examiner, Officials not held negligent for failing to protect slain family.

The judge cited the 1986 Maryland case Ashburn v. Anne Arundel County as addressing the duty owed by police officers to the public. In that case, it was determined that a policy that places a duty on a police officer to insure the safety of each member of the community would create an unnecessary burden on the judicial system.

The ruling upheld a Baltimore court ruling that dismissed a $14 million lawsuit that was filed by relatives of Angela and Carnell Dawson and five children who were murdered by a drug dealer because they complained repeatedly to the police. The family made 109 calls to 911 from Jan 1, 2000 through Oct 16 2002, the day they were killed in a fire bombing attack.

In order for State and local governments to be responsible, the police must established a “special relationship”:

[The Judge Dale] Cathell also pointed out that there are circumstances under which a police officer “by his or her affirmative acts,” could create a duty to a specific individual by establishing a “special relationship.” In that circumstance, it must be shown that the local government or the police officer acted to protect someone, “thereby inducing the victim’s specific reliance upon the police protection.”

But the judge found “there is no fact establishing a special relationship between the city and the Dawsons on the basis of the 911 calls.”

The judge wrote that the only “affirmative act, if any existed at all” was the suggestion by police that the family move. Cathell noted that the family wasn’t injured because they moved, but because they stayed.

As our elected representatives contemplate legislation that affects how we can defend ourselves and our families, they need to be reminded the state has no duty to protect an individual.

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