Alameda Not Liable for Drowning Suicide

The lawsuit brought against the city of Alameda for not rescuing a suicidal man who drown himself in San Francisco Bay two years ago has been dismissed. Raymond Zack, 52, committed suicide by wading out into the frigid waters off of Crown Beach on Memorial Day, 2011.

Firefighters and police were unable to rescue him due to the lack of water rescue equipment and the fact that personnel had been ordered not to enter the water because their water rescue training had lapsed.

In a five page ruling issued yesterday, Judge George Hernandez Jr. concluded that Zack’s family failed to establish that firefighters and police officers had a legal duty to do more than they did.

Here are some of the more notable quotes from the judge in reaching his conclusion:

Liability may only be imposed on rescue personnel if “an officer voluntarily assumes a duty to provide a particular level of protection, and then fails to do so, or if an officer undertakes affirmative acts that increase the risk of harm to the plaintiff.”

Plaintiffs have not alleged any facts that show the officers responding to the 911 call at Crown Memorial State Beach on May 30, 2011 assumed any duty of care to Mr. Zack or undertook affirmative acts that increased the risk of harm to him.

[T]he Supreme Court … set forth seven factors for a court to consider in determining whether a duty of care is owed to a particular plaintiff, including (1) the foreseeability of harm to the injured party; (2) the degree of certainty that the injured party suffered harm; (3) the closeness of the connection between defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered; (4) the moral blame attached to defendant’s conduct; (5) the policy of preventing future harm; (6) the extent of the burden to defendant; and (7) the consequences to the community of imposing a duty. Balancing these factors, the court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts supporting a duty of care to decedent

Here is a copy of the ruling. Dismissal

Here is more on the story.

 

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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