Mother’s Claim Barred by Public Duty Doctrine after Child Killed in Speedboat Accident

In a recent case decided by a state appellate court, a 10-year-old boy was killed while riding as a passenger on a speedboat. While driving on a lake, the driver of the speedboat drove the speedboat between two warning buoys and hit a submerged pipe. The mother had taken her four children fishing on a lake with her boyfriend when the accident occurred. The boy’s mother settled claims against the boat’s driver and others, and then she sued the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The mother argued that the state was liable because it marked the pipe with buoys that were too far apart, the pipe’s placement violated state laws, the pipe was concealed, and the pipe posed a danger to individuals.

Boat's WakeThe state’s supreme court dismissed the case, finding that the public duty doctrine barred the mother’s claim. The court explained that the public duty doctrine means that if a duty is owed to the public in general, there can be no liability to an individual who is a member of the public. However, there may be a duty to an individual if a special relationship existed. In effect, the public duty rule acts to protect municipalities from liability arising from failing to adequately enforce laws and regulations.

Here, the court found that there was no special relationship between those on the lake that day and the Department of Natural Resources. Members of the public can use the lake at no cost and come and go as they please. There was a duty owed to the general public but not to individuals, and there was no special relationship between the state and recreational boaters. Thus, the claim was barred by the public duty doctrine.

The Public Duty Doctrine in Illinois

The public duty doctrine traditionally held that local governments cannot be sued for negligent conduct, since they do not owe a duty to individual residents to provide reasonable government services. This means that state and local governments often have immunity from personal injury lawsuits, including those arising from accidents involving emergency responders and fire departments.

However, the public duty rule was changed significantly in Illinois with a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision. The court decided that a government entity could still have a duty to individual residents despite its status as a public entity. This means that in Illinois, public services such as fire departments or police departments may be held liable for injuries that result from their negligent conduct under certain circumstances.

Do You Have a Claim Against a Government Entity?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of a government entity’s negligent conduct, you may be able to bring a claim against the government entity in Illinois. The Chicago boat accident attorneys at Moll Law Group have experience in cases that may present issues with governmental immunity. Our attorneys can help you figure out how to proceed in order to seek the compensation you deserve. Call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Woman Injured on Icy Hotel Sidewalk Fails to Provide Evidence of Hotel’s Duty to Train Employees, Must Retry Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, July 9, 2016.

Woman Fails to Provide Required Notice in Medical Malpractice Claim, Resulting in Dismissal, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2016.

Court Dismisses Case After Failure to Pay Filing Fee Within Statute of Limitations, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, June 25, 2016.