Slaven v. Salem

386 Mass. 885, 438 N.E.2d 348 (1982)

 

RULE:

The duty of a jailer is similar to the duty of common carriers or innkeepers. One who is required by law to take or voluntarily takes the custody of another under circumstances such as to deprive the other of his normal opportunities for protection is under a duty (1) to protect them against unreasonable risk of physical harm, and (2) to give them first aid after it knows or has reason to know that they are ill or injured, and to care for them until they can be cared for by others.

FACTS:

A police officer arrested the administratrix' brother for open and gross lewdness and he was taken to the police station. The brother was asked to empty his pockets, charges were recorded against him, and he was placed alone in his cell. The administratrix visited her brother in jail and she observed that he was wearing a belt. Later that evening, while inspecting the cell area, another police officer saw the administratrix' brother hanging from a bar in the cell door. A belt was tied to the upper bar of the cell door and looped around his neck. Efforts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The court held that the administratrix did not proffer the required facts to support her assertion that the police knew, or had reason to know, that her brother was suicidal. The administratrix' action was dismissed when the lower court granted the city's summary judgment motion. The court affirmed the order. 

ISSUE:

Did the judge err in granting the city's motion for summary judgment?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

After the city provided affidavits from the police officers that they did not know or should have known that the decedent was suicidal, the burden shifted to the administratrix to allege specific facts that established that there was a genuine, triable issue. The court held that the administratrix did not proffer the required facts to support her assertion that the police knew, or had reason to know, that her brother was suicidal.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.