Circuit Court for Montgomery County Case No. 404907-V
Beachley, Shaw Geter, Fader, JJ.
Howard, the appellant, presents the question whether a police
officer may be held individually liable in tort for failing
to make contact with an individual who placed a call for
assistance to 911 to which the officer attempted to respond.
We hold that Maryland law does not impose individual
liability in tort in that circumstance.
early morning hours of February 19, 2014, Nicole Sade Enoch
was in her apartment in Silver Spring. A male friend of a
woman who was staying with Ms. Enoch may have been there as
well. Shortly after 2:00 a.m., Ms. Enoch called
In response, Montgomery County Police Officer Ben Crumlin was
dispatched to the apartment building, attempted to enter, but
found the door locked. He left without making contact with
point, Ms. Enoch went to the roof of her apartment building
and either jumped, fell, or was pushed off. Her body was
discovered at 8:20 a.m. and she was pronounced dead at the
Howard, who is Ms. Enoch's mother, brought suit for
herself and on behalf of Ms. Enoch's estate in the
Circuit Court for Montgomery County. The operative complaint
for our purposes is the Fourth Amended Complaint, in which
Ms. Howard brought claims against Officer Crumlin and
Montgomery County Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger for
negligence and wrongful death. Ms. Howard alleged that Officer
Crumlin and Chief Manger owed a duty to Ms. Enoch that they
breached by failing to investigate the 911 call, protect Ms.
Enoch, enter the building and make contact with Ms. Enoch,
maintain proper policies and procedures for responding to 911
calls, provide adequate training for responding to 911 calls,
and monitor the response of officers to 911 calls. According
to the complaint, these failures were the direct and
proximate cause of Ms. Enoch's death.
circuit court dismissed the claims against Officer Crumlin
and Chief Manger on the ground that those defendants did not
owe a duty to Ms. Enoch that was enforceable in tort. We
standard of review of the grant or denial of a motion to
dismiss is whether the trial court was legally correct."
Blackstone v. Sharma, 461 Md. 87, 110 (2018).
appeal centers on two different legal doctrines that are
distinct but too often confused: the public duty doctrine and
public official immunity. Each independently requires a ruling in
favor of Officer Crumlin and Chief Manger. We discuss them in
Ms. Howard's Allegations Fail to Show that Officer
Crumlin or Chief Manger Owed a Duty to Ms. Enoch That Can Be
Enforced in Tort.
public duty doctrine provides that statutory or common law
duties imposed on public officials or entities that are
duties "to the public as a whole," and not to any
particular group or individual, are unenforceable in tort.
Cooper v. Rodriguez, 443 Md. 680, 714 (2015). Where
it is applicable, the plaintiff cannot ordinarily establish
that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff or a group of
which the plaintiff ...