Coleman v. E. Joliet Fire Prot. Dist.Annotate this Case
The Colemans lived in unincorporated Will County’s Sugar Creek area, for which separate entities handled police emergencies and fire and ambulance services. On June 7, 2008, Coretta called 911. She was connected to operator Zan. Coretta stated that she could not breathe. Zan transferred the call to Orland dispatcher Johnson. Although procedures required Zan to communicate the nature of Coretta’s emergency, Zan hung up as soon as the call was transferred. Johnson asked questions but received no response. Johnson hung up and called Coretta’s number but got a busy signal. Johnson testified that dispatchers are trained to call the transferring agency if more information is needed, but he did not. East Joliet ambulance 524 was dispatched, for an “unknown emergency.” Unable to enter or get a response, the crew looked in the windows, but did not see anyone. Neighbors approached. The crew said that they could not make a forced entry without police. Their supervisor ordered them back to service. Neighbors called 911. After confusion about the address, a crew entered the house 41 minutes after the initial call. Coretta, age 58, died. The family sued. The circuit court granted all defendants summary judgment, finding that the public duty rule applied and that defendants owed Coretta no special duty. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, abolishing the public duty rule and remanding for determination of whether defendants may be held liable for alleged willful and wanton conduct. The public policy behind the judicially created public duty rule and its exception have largely been supplanted by enactment of statutory immunities.