Abolition of Illinois Public Duty Immunity Doctrine is Prospective Only

December 1, 2020 / News

The decision in Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District, 2016 IL 117952 (2016) was another politically charged decision from the Illinois Supreme Court where the four Democratic Justices ruled over three Republican Justices to abolish a long-standing Illinois legal precedent upholding the public duty immunity rule. In the words of dissenting Justice Thomas, this four Justice majority created new precedent eliminating this immunity without being presented with any compelling reason to do so, contrary to the principle of stare decisis. In Volume 1 of our 2016 CM Report, Kimbley Kearney of our Appellate Group, who acted as lead appellate counsel before the Illinois Supreme Court in Coleman, more fully analyzed the public duty doctrine and the Coleman decision abolishing this immunity. We wish to report to our friends in the defense and insurance industry that the Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that its Coleman decision should be applied prospectively only. In Tzakis v. Maine Township, No. 125017 (Ill. Sup. Ct. 11-19-20), the Court held that Coleman should be given prospective application only because it represented a clear departure from prior precedent and fairness so required to defendants currently involved in litigation predating Coleman who might be relying on the public duty doctrine to shield them from liability. If any of our friends in the insurance and defense industry have any questions about Coleman or the public immunities, please contact Kimbley Kearney at Clausen Miller.

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