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Failure To Warn Of Threats

A business deal gone wrong led the Illinois Supreme Court to hold that people generally have no obligation to warn others of the possibility that a third person might commit a crime.

The case involved a partnership formed to develop a strip mall. The deal went bad, and one partner was forced to sell his interest. He told some of the other partners that he was so unhappy that he planned to shoot the partner he blamed for his losses, but the other partners never warned the target. Eventually, the unhappy partner did as he had threatened and shot his former partner.

The partner who had been shot sued the other partners that knew of the threats, claiming that their knowledge gave rise to a duty to warn him. The case ultimately reached the supreme court, which disagreed with the argument and dismissed the case. The court found that the law only imposed a duty to take reasonable steps to protect people from crimes in limited circumstances, such as an innkeeper-guest or a business-patron.

Because the partners were not related in a way that gave rise to a duty to protect, the court ruled that they were not obligated to warn the target. Specifically, the court found that, although the parties were business partners, the shooting was not directly related to the partnership business, and the risk of not warning the target did not "arise from the particular nature" of the business. Because the shooting was not closely enough related to the partners' business, the partners had no legal duty to warn.

This case highlights an important point: Although carelessness causes injuries, a person is not liable for injuries to another unless he had a duty to act. If there is no duty, there is no liability, no matter what the connection between an act or omission and an injury.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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