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In order to adequately state a cause of action for negligence, the plaintiff's allegations must establish the existence of a duty of care owed by defendant to plaintiff, a breach of that duty, and an injury proximately resulting from that breach. It is not sufficient that a complaint merely allege a duty; the plaintiff must allege facts from which the law will raise a duty. The existence of a legal duty is a question of law to be determined by the trial court.
Plaintiff, Alan Duncan, a Naperville police officer, was injured in an automobile accident during an emergency response to a robbery alarm from the bank. The alarm, a false one, was activated by the customer's three-year-old son who had set off the alarm before. Plaintiff instituted a personal injury suit against the defendant bank and the defendant customer alleging negligence. The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit, holding that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action.
Did the plaintiff’s complaint state a cause of action for negligence against the defendants?
The court found that the trial court erred in granting the motions to dismiss. The court held that the bank had a duty to the police officer because the facts gave rise to a special type of relationship between the bank and the police officer as the police officer was responding to the bank for the sole reason that the alarm had been activated. The court found no merit in the bank's argument that its duty was negated by the fact that the injury occurred off the actual premises of the bank. The court held that the customer owed a duty to the police officer because she had special power of control over the conduct of her son, which she failed to exercise reasonably and that the "fireman's rule" did not relieve her of liability.