A personal injury lawsuit filed by 15 high school students, survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been dismissed by a federal judge who ruled six defendants, including the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, a school deputy, a campus monitor and the Broward School District, owed no duty of care to protect the students from the gunman. Nothing in the state constitution or statute imposes a general duty on police officers or other government officials to protect people from harm – even when they know it will occur. This duty is limited to those who are “in custody” of police, which as our Broward County injury lawyers can explain has been narrowly interpreted by courts to mean those situations wherein a person has lost his/ her freedom to move freely or seek assistance on their own. It doesn’t apply to students in school, particularly the older they are.
In total, 17 students and staff members were killed in the six-minute attack and 17 others were injured.
The outcome was indeed disappointing for many in Parkland and throughout Florida because it undercuts a core belief so many have about police and school services: That the public – especially schoolchildren – have the right to expect police will protect them. That is simply not true. The few exceptions that have been carved out, as noted by legal scholars quoted in The New York Times, are situations where, for instance, a crossing guard is assigned specifically to protect a child from crossing the street and instead gets distracted by their smartphone. In the eyes of the law, that crossing guard may have a special relationship to that specific child. It’s only when this special relationship has been established or when the officer has done something to enhance the risk of harm that the officer and/ or the employer can be held liable under the state’s negligence laws. Continue reading