Duty: the backbone of all negligence cases

If you want to sue for an injury one of the things your lawyer has to prove is that the defendant owed you a duty to either not harm you or to do something to prevent your harm.  Example:  A lifeguard owes swimmers the duty to use all reasonable efforts to protect them when swimming…but he doesn’t have to do anything if you are being robbed on the beach parking lot.  His duty is to people in the water, not people in a parking lot 50 feet away.  The defendant must owe a duty (a legal responsibility) to the person who was injured.

Below is a shocking example of when a court found that what seemed like a duty to protect wasn’t in fact a duty at all.  (I’m still not sure I will ever understand this case).

Blankenship v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.

Mental health facility patient entered facility lobby and doused part-time receptionist with gasoline from paint bucket he carried, and set her on fire, resulting in her death. Estate sued facility's security company for failure to provide adequate security; security company did not contract to provide armed security, and did not owe duty to protect decedent from this violent act. Security officers complied with their post orders and performed their duties with reasonable care. Thus, court properly granted summary judgment for security company. (DELORT and CUNNINGHAM, concurring.)

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