Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court Civil opinions in Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District and Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services.
By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd.
In this divisive case, the Supreme Court departed from stare decisis and “determined that the time has come to abandon the public duty rule and its special duty exception.”
The public duty rule provided that local governmental entities and their employees owe no duty of care to individual members of the general public to provide governmental services, such as police and fire protection.
The Court based its ruling on three considerations: (1) the jurisprudence regarding the public duty rule was “muddled and inconsistent”; (2) application of the public duty rule is incompatible with the legislature's grant of limited immunity in cases of willful and wanton misconduct; and (3) determining public policy is primarily a legislative function and, by enacting statutory immunities, the legislature had rendered the public duty rule obsolete.
The special concurrence by Justice Freeman, joined by Justice Theis, agreed that the public duty rule must be abolished, but offered alternative justifications for the abolition. Justice Thomas, joined by Chief Justice Garman and Justice Karmeier, dissented, criticizing that the majority and concurring opinions were indefensible and that “both make a mockery of stare decisis.”