Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Public Duty Doctrine Definition:

A principle of personal injury law; that government owes duties to the public at large rather than to individuals.

In Eklund, the Montana Supreme Court held:

"The public duty doctrine provides that a governmental entity cannot be held liable for an individual plaintiff's injury resulting from a governmental officer's breach of a duty owed to the general public rather than to the individual plaintiff."

In a Kansas case, Skiles v Rawlins, Justice Robinson opined:

"In an action against a governmental entity, the Court must also consider the public duty doctrine. Under the public duty doctrine, a governmental agency owes duties to the public at large rather than to individuals. No duty exists unless the plaintiff establishes that the agency owed a special duty to the injured party.

"Such special relationships include common carriers and their passengers, innkeepers and their guests, parents and their children, masters and servants, possessors of land and licensees, persons in charge of one with dangerous propensities, and persons with custody of another.

"A duty may also arise if it was alleged that the County had undertaken, gratuitously or for a consideration, to render services, which requires it to have performed an affirmative act or some agreement...."

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