101 South Hanley, Suite 1280 Clayton, MO 63105
314.283.8930; henry@elsterlaw.com

Public Duty Doctrine, Negligence

To prevail on a negligence claim, a plaintiff needs to plead that a defendant owed the plaintiff a (1) duty, the (2) defendant breached the duty, and the (3) defendant caused the plaintiff harm/damages.

The public duty doctrine usually protects a public officer from negligence claims. Benson v. Kansas City, Bd. of Police Com’rs, 366 S.W.3d 120, 124 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012). The rationale for this is that a public officer owes a duty to the public — not a particular individual. As a result, the duty element of a negligence claim is not present because negligence typically require that the duty be owed to a specific individual.

Confusingly, there is an exception to this exception. A public officer can still be liable for negligence for breach of “ministerial duties” in which a plaintiff has a “special, direct and distinctive interest.” Twiehaus v. Adolf, 706 S.W.2d 443, 445 (Mo. 1986).

Contact with questions about negligence and civil litigation.