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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

County Dispatch Services Protected by Tort Immunity Act

An Illinois Appellate Court recently held that a county and its employees had immunity from liability in a case brought by the husband of a woman who died after driving under the influence of alcohol. Schultz v. St. Clair County.

Plaintiff sued the County, a 9-1-1 agency, the ETSB, and an unnamed dispatcher claiming they were responsible for his wife's death. According to the complaint, the plaintiff had called 9-1-1 to report that his wife was under the influence of alcohol and asking police to prevent her from driving her vehicle. He claims the dispatcher refused to call police to his wife's location which he claims led to her death that evening. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the Tort Immunity Act protected the defendants from liability. Specifically, Section 4-102 provides as follows:

Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for failure to establish a police department or otherwise provide police protection service or, if police protection service is provided, for failure to provide adequate police protection or service, failure to prevent the commission of crimes, failure to detect or solve crimes, and failure to identify or apprehend criminals.

The trial court dismissed the case and plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court first noted that Section 4-102 had been previously interpreted by the Illinois Supreme Court to provide immunity where dispatch services are called upon to dispatch police in response to a request for services and the police do not respond. Applying that case to the plaintiff's claims, the Appellate Court found the defendants to be immune from liability under Section 4-102. The Court also rejected plaintiff's argument that the Emergency Telephone Systems Act imposes liability or responsibility for dispatch services, finding the Tort Immunity Act to be clear on the applicable immunities. 


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