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Tort/Negligence – Wrongful Death – Public Duty Doctrine – Impaired Driver

Where (1) police discovered a driver passed out at the wheel; (2) police learned that the driver’s license had been revoked; (3) police told the driver not to drive but did not take his keys or disable his vehicle; and (4) after the police left, the driver drove away, veered off the road and struck plaintiff’s decedent – a pedestrian – fatally injuring him, the public duty doctrine bars plaintiff’s claim of negligence against the police.

We affirm the trial court’s grant of defendants’ motion to dismiss.

This case involves no special relationship, special duty or grossly negligent failure to inspect. The driver, Geoffrey Shobel was responsible for the decedent’s death, not the police officers who failed to take him into custody or disable his vehicle. That the officers failed to control Shobel did not create any future obligation to unknown parties that might or might not be threatened or harmed. Indeed, the facts of this case illustrate the necessity of the doctrine: placing an unreasonable hindsight based standard of liability upon a police officer when performing public duties is exactly that which the public duty doctrine seeks to alleviate.

Finally, plaintiff has no valid claim for negligent hiring or retention against defendants because Shobel was the tortfeasor who caused the decedent’s death and Shobel was not an employee of defendants. A claim for negligent supervision and training against an employer is derivative from and dependent on the existence of a viable claim against an employee, and there can be no derivative claim against the defendant-city because plaintiff has no claim against the officers.

Affirmed.

Racine v. City of Raleigh (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-232-22, 8 pp.) (Darren Jackson, J.) Appealed from Wake County Superior Court (Vince Rozier, J.) Charles Francis and Alan Woodlief for plaintiff; Dorothy Kibler for defendants. 2022-NCCOA-324


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