Sorichetti v. New York

65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985)

 

RULE:

A municipality cannot be held liable for injuries resulting from a failure to provide adequate police protection absent a special relationship existing between the municipality and the injured party. Indeed, where there is no special relationship, a municipality does not owe a duty to its citizens in the performance of governmental functions, and thus courts will not examine the "reasonableness" of the municipality's actions. In the context of police protection, a different rule could and would inevitably determine how the limited police resources of the community should be allocated and without predictable limits.

FACTS:

Police officers refused to enforce plaintiff mother's protective order despite threats by the father outside the police station. The father brutally assaulted plaintiff child while plaintiff mother waited at the police station in reliance on unfulfilled promises that the police would act. Plaintiffs sued defendant city for damages, claiming that it failed to take the father into custody or otherwise prevent his assault upon his daughter. Verdict was granted in favor of plaintiffs. The lower appellate court modified but affirmed the jury verdict. On further appeal, the court affirmed the lower appellate court’s order.

ISSUE:

Was defendant city liable for the injuries sustained by plaintiff infant due to the failure of the city's police to protect plaintiff?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

When the police were made aware of a possible violation, they were obligated to respond and investigate, and their actions were subject to a "reasonableness" review in a negligence action. In the instant case, a special relationship existed by reason of the protection order and the police knowledge of the father’s violent tendencies. The verdict was supported by the failure of the police to respond and investigate plaintiff mother's complaint.

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