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Fauchaux v. Provo City 2015 UT App 3, — P.3d —- (Jan. 2, 2015)

Jan 2, 2015

Applying Cope v. Utah Valley State College, 2014 UT 53, decided just six weeks earlier, the Court of Appeals held that the public duty doctrine exception to liability for public entities applies only if the actor has not established a special relationship “that imposes a specific duty of care toward the plaintiff as an individual distinguishable from a public duty owed to the general public.” The court lists four circumstances creating a special relationship, one of which is “when a government agent undertakes specific action to protect a person or property.” The plaintiff/husband had called police because he believed his wife was suicidal. Police arrived and the wife denied overdosing, saying she took the pills as prescribed and that the powder was from making pancakes. Police tucked the wife into bed and told the husband that his wife did not overdose and just needed to sleep it off. The husband asked police to take his wife to the hospital, and the police told him to leave the wife alone and if he called again, they would arrest him. The court held these facts sufficient to describe a special relationship, but stated the holding only “imposes on police officers the duty to act reasonably when they enter a person’s home, undertake specific action to protect that person, and prevent others in the home from taking protective action.”