Maryland Plaintiff Pursues Wrongful Death Claim Against Police for Failing to Investigate 911 Call

In some cases, personal injuries arise out of the negligent actions of another person or entity.  Victims generally have legal recourse against those responsible for their injuries, unless the law provides for immunity or another exception.  In a November 28, 2018 Maryland wrongful death case, the plaintiff sued a police officer and police chief, alleging that they negligently caused the death of her daughter.  The defendants argued that they were entitled to immunity and could not be sued for damages.  After the circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

In the case, the victim had called 911 and the police officer was dispatched to her apartment building.  The officer attempted to enter the building, but found that the door was locked.  He left without making contact with the victim.  At some point, the victim went to the roof of her apartment building and either jumped, fell, or was pushed off.  She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The plaintiff alleged that the police were negligent in failing to investigate the 911 call and failing to enter the building and make contact with the victim.  The plaintiff also contended that the police did not provide adequate training or supervision for officers responding to 911 calls.  The issues on appeal centered on the public duty doctrine and public official immunity.

The Maryland public duty doctrine provides that duties imposed on public officials and entities are duties to the public as a whole, and not to any particular individual.  However, there is an exception to the public duty doctrine where a public official creates a special relationship with the victim, upon which the victim relied.  For such a relationship to exist, the police officer must have affirmatively acted to protect the victim, thereby inducing the victim’s specific reliance upon the police protection.  The appeals court held that no special relationship existed between the victim and police, as the 911 response was part of its general public duty. The court found no other affirmative act on the part of the defendants, nor communication between the defendants and the victim, which would establish a special relationship.

The court went on to hold that the police officers were entitled to public official immunity. In Maryland, public official immunity protects public officials, including police, who perform negligent acts during the course of their discretionary, as opposed to ministerial duties.  Immunity does not apply, however, to acts undertake with malice or gross negligence.  The appeals court found that the defendants’ failure to investigate further was discretionary, and that none of their alleged actions demonstrated malice or gross negligence.  The court therefore affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.

If you are seeking answers after an accident, the Maryland injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist you.  We have pursued compensation for plaintiffs in medical malpractice actions, premises liability cases, personal injury claims, and other negligence lawsuits.  Request a confidential legal consultation with an experienced attorney by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or submitting the contact form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Family of Maryland State Prisoner Wins Wrongful Death Case, Appeals Damages Cap, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 20, 2018

Maryland Plaintiff Wins Case Against County, Police Department After Violent Arrest, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published March 22, 2018