The Public Duty Doctrine

The Public Duty Doctrine

Under Washington State laws, what is the public duty doctrine? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).



"Under the public duty doctrine, no liability may be imposed for a public official's negligent conduct unless it is shown that the duty breached was owed to the injured person as an individual and was not merely the breach of an obligation owed to the public in general." Specialty Asphalt & Construction, LLC v. Lincoln County, 191 Wn.2d 182, 198 (Wash. 2018) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (hyperlink added).


"An exception to the public duty doctrine applies if there is a 'special relationship' between the parties." Id. (internal citation omitted). "A special relationship arises where[:]

(1) there is direct contact or privity between the public official and the injured plaintiff which sets the latter apart from the general public, and

(2) there are express assurances given by a public official, which

(3) give[ ] rise to justifiable reliance on the part of the plaintiff.

Id. (second alteration in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (paragraph formatting added).


If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.


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