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‘Public duty doctrine’ questioned after man dies near fire station
The D.C. Council opposed any limitations of the doctrine in a July filing in the Woods case.
“The public duty doctrine remains a vital component of the District’s delivery of police, fire, and emergency medical services that should remain intact as implemented by the judicial branch,” the D.C. Council’s general counsel, V. David Zvenyach, wrote in documents filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals.
In the filing, the council’s attorney reasoned that allowing exceptions to the doctrine would give rise to more lawsuits that could drain funding that the government needs to improve and maintain city services.
Though the appeal in the Woods case upheld the city’s use of the public duty doctrine, one judge noted that the broad scope with which the doctrine is used is perhaps not the way it initially was intended.
Judge Kathryn A. Oberly said limiting the legal options after such “inexplicable negligence” on the part of the District’s EMTs “suggests that we have let the doctrine sweep far more broadly than is necessary to strike the proper balance between protecting the District from sweeping liability, on the one hand, and allowing the District’s citizens the chance to prove that their government has failed them miserably, on the other.”
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About the Author
Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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