AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
Back to list of subjects Back to Legal Publications Menu
Public Protection: Crime & Accident Victims
Monthly Law Journal Article: Public Protection: Injured Crime and Accident Victims, 2009 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
The Supreme Court of Mississippi
found that a city was not liable for the death of a runaway female juvenile
based on a beating by her boyfriend. City police had taken her into custody
on a number of occasions, and the police department allegedly failed to
properly investigate her claims she was having sex with an officer and
by failing to apprehend her in a timely manner and return her to the custody
or her parents or an appropriate agency. The city was immune from liability
under a state tort claims act. The decision as to how to investigate the
case or whether to investigate it was a discretionary function. A $1 million
award in favor of the plaintiffs was reversed. City of Jackson, Mississippi
v. Sandifer, Jr., #2011-CA-01063-SCT, 2013 Miss. Lexis 60.
A woman claimed that police officers acted negligently in failing to pick up and remove shotgun shells that were lying near a suspect they stopped and questioned on suspicion of burglary. The suspect later returned to the scene, retrieved the shells, and allegedly used them to shoot and kill the woman's husband. While there may be an independent duty to provide protection against the criminal acts of a third party when the defendant's own affirmative act creates or exposes another to the recognizably high degree of risk of harm. But the court also ruled that, in this case, the officers' alleged action of failing to pick up the shotgun hells during an investigatory stop did not add up to such an "affirmative" act for which there could be liability. Robb v. City of Seattle, #85658-3, 2013 Wash. Lexis 73.
A female college student was brought to a hospital emergency room after she passed out at a party. Despite their concern that she might have been involuntarily drugged and then raped, police officers declined to authorize the carrying out of a forensic exam. Subsequently, she sued the District of Columbia, claiming that its police were negligent in failing to investigate her possible sexual assault, and that the District negligently hired, trained and supervised the officers in the area of investigating sexual assaults. Summary judgment was properly granted for the defendant District on these claims. The officers owed a duty to investigate possible crimes to the public, not to any specific individual. Additionally, the officers did not prevent the hospital from administering any forensic test, and had its own independent authority to do so if it wished, but declined to do so. McGaughey v. District of Columbia, #11–7001, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 14568 (D.C. Cir.)
Officers were entitled to qualified immunity for temporarily physically separating a twenty-one-month-old male infant from his mother. The child became entangled in a soccer net, and was extricated by his mother, who found him not breathing. Officers summoned to the scene saw strangulation marks on the child and declared the area a crime scene. The mother was taken away because she kept screaming threats of suicide. The child died, and the mother sued, claiming that the officers' actions slowed down the efforts of paramedics to save him. There was no clearly established due process duty to provide protection and medical treatment to the child in these circumstances. Cantrell v. City of Murphy, #10–41138, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 63 (5th Cir.).
An intoxicated driver struck a motorist who had been lying injured on the road after his own apparent alcohol-related accident. He sued two highway patrolmen who responded to his accident for failure to protect him from the intoxicated driver. A federal appeals court upheld summary judgment for the defendants, as the evidence did not show that they had taken the plaintiff into custody and held him against his will, triggering a duty to protect him. The officers did not move the motorist, awaiting the arrival of an ambulance, as they feared he had suffered a spinal injury, but they did attempt to stop the oncoming vehicle driven by the intoxicated driver, who ignored their directions. Dodd v. Jones, #09-2016; 623 F.3d 563 (8th Cir. 2010).
An officer who served as a crash investigator was dispatched to the scene of an accident that took place between a female motorist and a male motorcycle rider. The officer, who observed the motorcycle rider lying face down after having been thrown and landing head first on the street, believed that he was dead. Other officers were already on the scene. He later claimed that the female motorist, while "a little shaken up," had told him that she was not injured. He handed back her driver's license, registration, and insurance card, and suggested that she could leave her disabled car at the parking lot of a nearby gas station, which she did. The officer returned to his vehicle to complete paperwork, and did not inquire as to how the motorist was getting home or offer to assist her in doing so. The elderly female motorist declined an offer from the gas station attendant to drive her home if she would wait there until closing time, and she stated that she could walk home. As she attempted to do so, she was struck by a hit and run driver as she crossed a street, suffering serious injuries, and was hospitalized for various surgeries and treatments until she died. A lawsuit against the township and officer contended that they were responsible for her injuries at the hands of the hit and run driver by "abandoning" her at the scene of the first accident. The trial court and intermediate appeals court entered summary judgment for the defendants, finding them immune from liability for the officer's performance of discretionary acts at the scene of the first accident. The courts rejected an argument that the officer negligently performed ministerial duties in connection with the accident, for which state law does not provide immunity, since the female motorist had not asked him to provide aid. This was also not a case in which the motorist was plainly incapacitated, so that even if the officer was not exercising discretion, there was no evidence that he "negligently performed a ministerial task." Pappas v. Union Township, #A-5850-08T2, 2010 N.J. Super. Unpub. Lexis 2054 (A.D.).
A woman attacked by her neighbors claimed that the city should be liable for her injuries because it failed to provide her with adequate police protection. Rejecting that claim, the court found no evidence of a special relationship between the city and the victim. The city did not affirmatively undertake to provide her with police protection, and only vague and ambiguous assurances were made to her, instructing her to call police if anything actually happened. There were no promises of protection against the complained of harassment upon which the plaintiff could have reasonably relied. Brown v City of New York, #32269/03, 2009-02098, 2010 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis 4452 (2nd Dept.).
A woman injured in an auto accident while she was a passenger in a car driven by an intoxicated person sued a police officer who came to the scene, arguing that her paraplegia was not the result of the driver's intoxication, but of the officer's failure to call an ambulance. Rejecting this claim, the appeals court noted that the plaintiff herself was "adamant" in her repeated refusals of help from the officer, who repeatedly said that he would summon an ambulance if she wanted one. The officer breached no duty to the plaintiff, and there was no evidence that he made any misrepresentation to her that she relied on to her detriment. He did not promise to call an ambulance and then fail to do so, or tell the plaintiff that she was fine while actually believing that she was injured. He also did not tell others to move her while actually believing that she should stay still. The appeals court overturned a jury's award of $2,690,608 to the plaintiff. "Police routinely respond to emergencies, but they do not have a 'legal duty' to do so. By that, we mean that an officer's failure to respond to a request for assistance will not result in tort liability for the officer even if a member of the public is injured by the officer's failure to act, i.e., his or her nonfeasance. If they do respond and their affirmative acts negligently cause harm to a person in need of assistance, their misfeasance may create a special relationship and result in tort liability [...T]his tragic case involves an officer's nonfeasance that did not alter the risk of harm to the person in need." Camp v. State of California, #B209176, 2010 Cal. App. Lexis 695 (2nd Dist.).
A motorist died in a traffic accident at an intersection where a deputy was directing traffic. The county was entitled to immunity, as the deputy could not be found negligent for failing to remove an obstruction from the intersection. The court declined, however, to uphold summary judgment for the deputy, as there was some evidence from which it could be argued that he acted recklessly towards a known risk of harm while directing traffic. Just before the accident, he allegedly waved a motorcycle into the intersection despite oncoming traffic that required the motorcyclist to stop to avoid a collision. Widen v. County of Pike, #09CA794, 2010 Ohio App. Lexis 1794 (4th Dist.).
FBI agents allegedly protected a group of murderers, referred to as the "Bulger gang," against apprehension and prosecution, in order to use them as informants against La Cosa Nostra. This allegedly continued for over twenty years, despite notice that the informants were killers and would continue to commit murders. The estates of three persons allegedly killed by the informants sued the FBI, FBI agents, and the informants. The U.S. government was liable for the death of a man killed after an FBI agent allegedly leaked his intent to incriminate an informant, making it foreseeable that the informant would try to murder him. The government was also liable for the deaths of an informant's former girlfriend and her daughter, because a federal agent created an unreasonable risk of harm to them by helping the informants avoid arrest. The federal agents' conduct was within the scope of their employment, given that their superiors agreed to their actions to protect the informants. The court rejected, however, claims by the decedents' families for intentional infliction of emotional distress because they lacked "contemporaneous" knowledge of the murders. An exception to liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2671 et seq., for discretionary functions did not apply, as the conduct of the FBI was found to be criminal and in violation of the agency's guidelines. One family was awarded a total of $1,150,000, a second family received a total of $1,352,005, and a third received $219,795. Litif v. U.S., Civil Action #02-11791, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7493 (D. Mass.).
A township and its emergency responders were not liable for allegedly failing to provide medical care to a car accident victim or for allegedly spreading false information that he was already dead, resulting in other emergency responders also not treating him, and his subsequent death. The decedent was not in custody at the time, as the defendants had not restrained him and the only restraint was the circumstances of the accident. The state-created danger doctrine did not apply, as his injuries were caused by the accident, not the defendants' actions. The responders, at the time, were at the scene of a multi-vehicle accident where they had to evaluate where their efforts would be most useful, and could not be held liable for how they made that determination. Willis v. Charter Township of Emmett, #08-2100, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 194 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
A woman sued a transit authority and railroad, seeking damages for an attack she suffered on their property when she was attacked by a group of homeless men living there. The basis of her complaint was the failure of the defendants to remove the homeless encampment from the property, and the alleged failure to consider safety problems that could arise from their "homeless outreach" program. Rejecting liability, an intermediate New York appellate court found that the defendants made a discretionary governmental policy decision in enacting a "social outreach" program rather than using force to oust the homeless group from the premises. As a result, there could be no liability under state law for the allegedly resulting attack. Doe v City of New York, 2008-09461, 2009 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis 8419 (2nd Dept.).
A Caucasian man suffered injuries when he was allegedly attacked by a group of black men while walking across a vacant lot in a town, after they told him that white people were "not allowed" in that part of town. He sued a town, the county, and the county sheriff for violation of his substantive due process rights for failing to protect him against the assault. The defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's federal civil rights claims, since they had not created the danger to him. The defendants did not establish or encourage any of the illegal activity that may have been going on in the area, or place the plaintiff there. Bateman v. Town of Columbia, #4:07-CV-169, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 94379 (E.D.N.C.).
An unknown person attacked a man waiting for the bus. He claimed that the county breached a duty to protect him against such assaults by failing to post security guards or police officers near the bus stop. The appeals court ruled that, under Florida state law, the county did not owe the plaintiff a special duty of protection. The exercise of its police powers was a duty owed to the public as a whole. It was immune from liability for its decision not to post guards or officers at the bus stop, as it was engaged in a discretionary function. Miami-Dade County v. Miller, #3D09-712, 2009 Fla. App. Lexis 14512 (Fla. App. 3rd Dist.).
A city and city emergency workers were sued by a son for failing to stop him from viewing the scene of his father's suicide. A federal appeals court pointed out that the plaintiff failed to identify which particular right the defendants violated. The facts did not show that the defendants created the danger of harm to him or had any affirmative duty to protect him from any harm he might have suffered by viewing the aftermath of the suicide. Howard v. City of Girard, #08-3586, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 20895 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
A mother and the adoptive father sued a county and prosecutors for alleged violations of their child's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights by declining to prosecute the child's biological father for child sexual assault. The right to assert an equal protection claim is available to those subject to or threatened to discriminatory prosecution, the appeals court stated, but has never been recognized as extending to crime victims who claim to have been injured by the failure to prosecute an offender. As the plaintiffs' claimed injury was from the failure to prosecute the biological father, rather than based on failure to provide police protection, the court upheld dismissal of the lawsuit. Parkhurst v. Tabor, #08-2610, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 13774 (8th Cir.).
A shooting victim sought help from police. The officers allegedly pushed him onto an asphalt street and administered first aid there. At the time, he was shirtless and the temperature was in excess of 100 degrees. He allegedly told the officers that the asphalt was subjecting his exposed skin to burning. Despite this, the officers allegedly continued to restrain him against the asphalt for a number of minutes before another officer was told to get a blanket to place under him. Second-degree burns allegedly resulted. A federal appeals court upheld the denial of qualified immunity for the officers, finding that their actions constituted a Fourth Amendment seizure, in that they resisted the plaintiff's efforts to get up, and their alleged actions were objectively unreasonable. It is clearly established, the court stated, that it violates the Fourth Amendment to ignore, in an unreasonable way, complaints of pain from a seized person. Howard v. Kansas City Police Department; #08-2448, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 14415 (8th Cir.).
A police officer allegedly arranged for a sex offender to stay at a home a few days before he raped a child there. The child's mother sued, claiming that the officer exposed the child to a danger she would not otherwise have faced, in violation of her substantive due process rights. At the time of the incident, the law was clearly established that an officer who acted with deliberate indifference to affirmatively placing a person in a danger that they otherwise would not have faced violates that person's constitutional rights. The appeals court ruled, however, that the question of whether the officer violated the child's rights when his actions were not aimed at the child, but at a third person (here the sex offender) who later harms the child had not previously been decided in the Ninth Circuit. The officer was therefore granted qualified immunity, as he did not violate clearly established law. Decoria v. County of Jefferson, #07-36066, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 10788 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).
No evidence was produced from which it could be established that police officers acted with deliberate indifference and unreasonably delayed the transporting of a shooting victim to the hospital, resulting in his death. The undisputed facts showed that officers arriving on the scene summoned an ambulance, and that the victim arrived at the hospital fourteen minutes after the scene of the shooting was secured. There was no evidence from which any delay could be attributed to the police. Zipoli v. Caraballo, #3:06CV00388, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 26033 (D. Conn.).
An employee working for a private company providing data entry services for a city department of homeless services was allegedly assaulted by a person she was registering for services as a prospective client of a homeless shelter. She sued the city, but an intermediate New York appeals court ruled that the city was entitled to summary judgment because it had not assumed any special duty to protect the employee, nor had the plaintiff shown that she had reasonably relied on any direct promise to provide her with such protection. While security officers who were usually outside the intake office were not present on the day of the incident, there was no evidence that they were ever in the intake office with the employee. Alava v. City of New York, No. 3807, 103339/04, 2008 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis 6546 (A.D. 1st Dept.).
Alleged conduct of employees of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in instructing individuals to cease reporting alleged abuse of a girl by her mother was "conscience shocking," if true, and a father of a deceased daughter (who was not currently married to the mother) stated a possible claim for violation of his daughter's due process rights under the state-created danger theory for failing to adequately investigate abuse allegations and discouraging reporting of additional such incidents. The employees were not entitled to qualified immunity. At the time of the daughter's death, she was in the physical custody of her mother, but in the legal custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The Department had previously removed the child from the mother's legal custody after investigating the child's injuries, including bruises and a broken clavicle, and concluding that they were non-accidental and the result of abuse. During unsupervised visits with the mother, the child allegedly continued to suffer injuries, and died while in the physical custody of the mother and her husband. Briggs v. Johnson, No. 07-6037, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 8816 (10th Cir.).
Minor failed to show that there was a mandatory duty under California state law to protect her from violence by her father, who stabbed her in the heart and lung. The father had previously been arrested for screaming in an uncontrollable manner in the street and around his apartment, and violently banging on a refrigerator. Following the arrest, a urine test showed that he was under the influence of phencyclidine. Even though the ensuing investigation by a social worker was "lousy" and failed to make a proper determination about the risk of returning the minor to her father, there was immunity from liability for the exercise of discretion under these circumstances. Ortega v. Sacramento County Dept. of Health & Human Services, No C054262, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 470 (3rd Dist.).
A police dispatcher allegedly improperly used his job facilities, including searching 911 databases, to find and kill his former girlfriend and her boyfriend, relying on motor vehicle and license plate registrations The dispatcher's supervisor allegedly became aware of the dispatcher's improper searches and suspended him. During the suspension, two co-workers allegedly assisted him in obtaining information without authorization. In a lawsuit brought by the estate of the boyfriend, "state-created danger" claims against the supervisor were rejected, since he did not "act affirmatively" to increase the danger, but the plaintiff sufficiently pled that the co-workers knew of the dispatcher's threats to make the boyfriend "pay" for dating his ex-girlfriend, and acted with deliberate indifference to the results of their acts in assisting him, which constituted "conscience-shocking" behavior. The appeals court further ruled, however, that the plaintiff should be allowed to amend her claims against the supervisor to attempt to better establish them. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, No. 06-2869, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 2513 (3rd Cir.).
Police officers and city were not liable for death of child transported to hospital in non-medically equipped emergency patrol wagon, rather than ambulance, after he was shot in a drive-by shooting. The city and officers had not created the danger to the child, and did not have a special relationship with the child creating a special duty to protect him from private acts of violence or to provide adequate first aid when such violence took place. The officers' conduct also did not shock the conscience. Sanders v. City of Philadelphia, No. 06-CV-359, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 73846 (E.D. Pa.).
City was not liable for the shooting and killing of a woman by a felon previously found by police officers to be in possession of a firearm, but not arrested at the time. The decedent's mother and estate claimed that the city's police department should be held liable because it had a policy of not arresting felons found to illegally possess weapons, but instead referring those cases to federal authorities for possible prosecution. In failing to arrest the man who subsequently shot her daughter, the plaintiff argued, the city and two of its officers created the danger that ended her life. A federal trial court ruled that there could be no liability on the basis of such an "omission claim." Mills v. City of Roanoke, Civil Action No. 7:07CV00220, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 76082 (W.D. Va.).
The estates of 4 of 12 students who died, and a number of students injured, in the collapse of a bonfire stack at a Texas state university, claimed that university officials were liable for their deaths and injuries. In a prior appeal, overturning a dismissal of the plaintiffs' federal civil rights claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit found that if the university officials acted with deliberate indifference to the risk of harm the bonfire presented, there could be liability under a "state-created danger" theory. Scanlan v. Texas A&M University, 343 F.3d 533 (5th Cir. 2003). On further appeal, the court upheld summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's claims on the basis that the defendants were not on fair notice that liability could be based on that theory, since prior caselaw from neither the Fifth Circuit nor the United States Supreme Court had adopted it. The defendants were therefore entitled to qualified immunity. Breen v. Texas A & M Univ., No. 04-40712, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 9371 (5th Cir.).
Plaintiff failed to show a basis on which a transit authority should be held liable for the murder of her son by an unknown attacker at a train station. Briggs v. Washington Metro Area Transit Auth., No. 06-7037, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 7058 (D.C. Cir.).
City, mayor, and police chief were not liable under either federal or Washington state law for alleged failure to protect members of crowd from assault by drunken individuals. The officers present at the event did not enhance the danger to those attacked, and a state statute cited did not require officers to arrest individuals for an assault but merely authorized them to make such arrests. Further, there was nothing in the record to show that the defendants knew, at the time of the incident, that the plaintiffs were being harmed or threatened by the intoxicated persons. Johnson v. City of Seattle, No. 05-35319, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 1509 and 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 1016 (9th Cir.).[N/R]
New York high court rules that officers who allegedly failed to remove weapons from home when called to the scene of a domestic dispute were not liable for estranged husband's action, after they left, of shooting and injuring wife before killing himself with the same gun. Without a "special relationship" imposing a duty to provide protection, officers "cannot be expected to predict and prevent irrational behavior." Halpin v. Town of Lancaster, No. 167 SSM 26, 2006 N.Y. Lexis 2551. [2006 LR Nov]
Wife could not pursue her claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the U.S. government for the death of her husband, allegedly murdered by FBI informants, since he failed to exhaust her available administrative remedies before filing her lawsuit. Barrett v. U.S., No. 05-1905, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 22745 (1st Cir.). [N/R]
Deputy sheriff was not liable for failing to arrest woman's boyfriend at her residence the night before he beat her to death. Even if he had suspected domestic abuse when summoned to the house, arrest in those circumstances was discretionary rather than mandatory under Kentucky state law, and, additionally, he observed no signs of violence or abuse. Howard v. Bayes, No. 05-5076, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 20378 (6th Cir.). [2006 LR Oct]
Officers and county were not liable for responding to 911 call concerning woman's drunken estranged husband's visit to her sister's house, and failing to prevent him from shooting and killing his wife, shooting his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and then killing himself. Nothing the officers did created or enhanced the danger. Tanner v. County of Lenawee, No. 05-1107, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 15566 (6th Cir.). ) [2006 LR Aug]
County was not liable for the rape and murder of a girl by a convicted sex offender on the basis of the alleged failure to warn the victim's parents of his presence in the community. The girl was not a "foreseeable" victim of the offender, and the county had no special relationship with the girl or her parents imposing a duty to warn them. Osborn v. Mason County, No. 76101-9, 134 P.3d 197 (Wash. 2006). [N/R]
Federal government was not liable for murder of a man randomly kidnapped by a criminal who went on a killing spree when the FBI failed to apprehend him after he called them to attempt to surrender on bank robbery charges. McCloskey v. Mueller, No. 05-2690, 446 F.3d 262 (1st Cir. 2006). [2006 LR Jul]
Paramedics who allegedly failed to give medical care to a barroom shooting victim after placing him in an ambulance were entitled to qualified immunity from liability. The shooting victim was not "in custody" for purposes of imposing a constitutional due process right to receive medical care, and the paramedics did not "create" the danger to the victim. Additionally they did not "cut off" any private attempts to render assistance to him, since there was no evidence that any private rescue was attempted. Jackson v. Schultz, No. 04-2289, 429 F. 3d 586 (6th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Illinois Supreme Court rules that police officers who allegedly failed to assist domestic violence victim in response to 911 call were not entitled to absolute immunity under state law on a claim that their inaction was willful and wanton conduct which caused her death when her husband subsequently shot her. More specific limited immunity provision of domestic violence statute applied instead, with an exception for willful and wanton conduct. Moore v. Green, No. 100029, 2006 Ill. Lexis 613. [2006 LR Jun]
County sheriff and other law enforcement officials were not liable for failing to protect woman from being murdered by her estranged husband based on their alleged failure to take adequate measures in response to her report that he had assaulted and raped her two weeks before. There was no indication that the decedent had justifiably relied on any affirmative promises by the defendants to provide protection or take particular action, and therefore no "special relationship" between the defendants and the decedent sufficient to support the imposition of liability. Kromer v. County of Onondaga, 809 N.Y.S.2d 723 (A.D. 4th Dept. 2006). [N/R]
County and officer were not liable for woman's murder by her boyfriend, based on officer's dispatch to her residence following 911 calls, and decision to leave when he failed to hear any indications of a dispute inside. These actions neither created nor increased the danger that the woman would be killed, so there could be no liability under a "state-created danger" theory. May v. Franklin County Comm'rs, No. 05-3188, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 3528 (6th Cir.). [2006 LR Apr]
Police officers reporting to the scene of a domestic dispute did not have an affirmative duty to remove weapons from the home, and therefore could not be liable for the husband's subsequent action of shooting his wife before killing himself. Halpin v. Town of Lancaster, 806 N.Y.S.2d 810 (A.D. 4th Dept. 2005). [N/R] FBI and its personnel were not liable for death of murder victim killed after self-proclaimed bank robber called FBI offering to turn himself in, and allegedly killed the victim the following day after his call was purportedly ignored. Liability was barred under the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort
Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2680(a), as the decision as to how to respond to the phone call was discretionary. McCloskey v. Mueller, No. CIV.A.04-CV-11015, 385 F. Supp. 2d 74 (D. Mass. 2005). [N/R]
City, mayor, and police chief were not liable for injuries suffered by crowd members assaulted by other persons during a neighborhood celebration which became disorderly. The police officers present, in allegedly failing to intervene, did not put injured crowd members in harm's way or compel crowd members to interact in any specific way. Johnson v. City of Seattle, No. C03-24181, 385 F. Supp. 2d 1091 (W.D. Wash. 2005). [N/R]
City was not liable for shooting of visitor to city housing project by tenant whose residency there was a violation of the housing authority's rules because he had felony convictions. The city and housing authority were entitled to governmental immunity under Pennsylvania state law, and an exception to such immunity for the management of real estate did not apply, as there was no showing that the shooting resulted from a defect in the property itself. Williams v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, 873 A.2d 81 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005). [N/R]
Woman who was assaulted and raped in her apartment in a federally subsidized public housing project failed to show that housing commission violated her federal civil rights by failing to protect her. Most of the "acts" she claimed were committed by the Defendant commission, including the alleged failure to maintain control over master keys and resident lists, were more in the nature of omissions or failures to act, and there was no showing that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm as required for federal civil rights liability. Federal appeals court upholds this conclusion despite the fact that her assailant allegedly entered her apartment through the use of a master key, and through a door on which the deadbolt lock had been removed as required by a federal government Housing and Urban Development (HUD) directive. Bullard v. Inkster Housing and Re-Development Commission, No. 04-1051, 126 Fed. Appx. 718 (6th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Deputy sheriff was not liable for failing to arrest man allegedly suspected of fighting with his girlfriend, who subsequently murdered her, since the duties imposed on him under a Kentucky domestic violence statute were discretionary. Plaintiffs also failed to show that the deputy had "created" or enhanced the danger to the girlfriend for purposes of the "state-created-danger" doctrine. Howard v. Bayes, No. CIV.A. 7:02-204, 378 F. Supp. 2d 753 (E.D. Ky. 2005). [N/R]
Officer was not entitled to qualified immunity in lawsuit claiming that he enhanced the danger to a woman and her husband through his actions, resulting in a 13-year-old neighbor, accused of molesting their daughter, breaking into their home and shooting them while they slept, killing the husband and injuring the wife. Appeals court finds that his allegedly false assurances that he would tell the woman before he spoke to the neighbor's family, and that police would patrol the neighborhood created a false sense of security, resulting in the failure to take additional precautions. Kennedy v. City of Ridgefield, No. 03-35333, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 12123 (9th Cir.). [2005 LR Aug]
U.S. Supreme Court rejects claim that woman granted a restraining order against her estranged husband had a constitutionally protected due process property interest in having police enforce it. Plaintiff alleged that the failure of police to do so resulted in the murder of her three minor daughters by her husband while violating the order. Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, No. 04-278, 2005 U.S. Lexis 5214. [2005 LR Aug]
County and deputy sheriff to whom a deputy surrendered his weapon under the terms of an order of protection obtained by his wife were not liable for his subsequent killing of his wife with another weapon he allegedly stole from a weapons locker. The Defendants did not have any special relationship with the wife imposing a duty to protect her under New York state law. Farley v. County of Erie, 791 N.Y.S.2d 251 (A.D. 4th Dept. 2005). [N/R]
Police officers' failure to arrest a parolee after he surrendered to them at a police station under outstanding bench warrant did not make them liable for his murder of one woman and rape of another six days later. The officers initially failed to find a record of the warrant, and, while the parolee had previously pled guilty to indecent assault, there was nothing to put the officers on notice that he was capable of committing the kind of "violent, heinous" crimes he subsequently committed, or the identity of his possible victims. Nothing showed that the officers' conduct created the danger to the crime victims. Liedy v. Borough of Glenolden, No. 03-3539, 117 Fed. Appx. 176 (3rd Cir. 2004). [N/R]
County could not be held liable for death of murder victim allegedly killed by detainee who removed an electronic home monitoring restraint and left home detention before committing the crime. The county and its agencies had no "special duty" to protect the victim from the crime, and an exception to statutory immunity for injury and death that occurs within the grounds of buildings used in performance of public functions did not apply. Kennerly v. Montgomery Cty. Bd. of Commissioners, 814 N.E.2d 1252 (Ohio App. 2d Dist. 2004). [N/R]
Victim of alleged rape by four university football team members could not pursue claims against law enforcement for violation of her civil rights on the basis of a purported failure to perform a proper investigation. Jennings v. City of Stillwater, No. 03-6206, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 19274 (10th Cir. September 15, 2004) [2004 LR Nov]
Police officer could not be held liable for failure to protect the plaintiff under a theory of "state-created-danger" when the plaintiff was "unknown" to the officer at the time of the incident in question. Under the "state-created-danger" theory of liability for failure to protect, the appeals court stated, liability exists "only if the state actor is aware of an immediate danger facing a known victim." Lester v. City of College Station, No. 03-20906, 103 Fed. Appx. 814 (5th Cir. 2004). [N/R]
Police officers and city were not liable for death of woman accidentally shot by her husband as he also shot a man attempting to sexually assault her in their home. Officers' one-hour delay in entering the home after the shooting was not deliberately indifferent to the injured woman's need for medical attention, since they could reasonably believe that entering the home would be dangerous, knowing that the man who fired the shots was inside. Estate of Strumph v. Ventura, 849 A2d 105 N.J. Super. A.D. 2004). [2004 LR Sep]
Federal appeals court, in case where estranged husband took and murdered his three minor daughters, in violation of domestic protection order, rules that such an order, when enforcement is required by a state statute, creates a property interest protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Claims against city for failing to enforce order are reinstated, but individual officers were entitled to qualified immunity. Gonzales v. Castle Rock, #01-1053, 366 F.3d 1093 (10th Cir. en banc, 2004). [2004 LR Sep]
Man beaten by four "hoodlums" in parking lot of city park while distributing Hare Krishna literature during a concert in city owned facility could not recover damages from either city or concert producer. Plaintiff's injuries were not the "foreseeable result" of any problem with concert security. Maheshwari v. City of New York, #54, 2004 N.Y. LEXIS 978. [2004 LR Jun]
City was not liable, under Florida law, for man's shooting of his wife, despite alleged negligent failure of officer to follow-up on promise to "talk" to the shooter about his alleged threat to her. Officer's failure to act was not the cause of the injuries, and no special relationship existed which would waive governmental immunity for the officer's conduct. City of Ocala v. Graham, No.5D02-3208, 864 So. 2d 473 (Fla. App. Dist. 5 2004). [2004 LR May]
City and police officials had no duty to protect apartment complex security guard against alleged murder by a man he used pepper spray against while on the job, despite an alleged threat to kill the security guard when the guard had him arrested. Dependents of Reid v. City of Canton, No. 2002-CA-00721-COA, 858 So.2d 163 (Miss. App. 2003). [2004 LR Mar]
Police officers who failed to arrest a sex offender after he came to a police station to surrender on a bench warrant for parole violation for failing to attend a mandated sex offender treatment class could not be held liable for his subsequent actions of murdering his landlady and raping her thirteen-year-old daughter. While police inaction may have constituted "conscience shocking deliberate indifference," the police did not create or increase the danger posed by the parolee, and his particular victims were not more foreseeable victims than the female public at large. Leidy v. Borough of Glenolden, 277 F. Supp. 2d 547 (E.D. Pa. 2003). [N/R]
Nebraska Supreme Court overturns $300,000 award to woman assaulted in her home by a former boyfriend while he was on probation. No special relationship existed between crime victim and the state which gave rise to any specific duty to protect her from her former boyfriend. Bartunek v. State, No. S-02-710, 666 N.W.2d 435 (Neb. 2003). [N/R]
FBI agent and United States government were not liable for the death of a man allegedly killed on the orders of reputed organized crime leaders who were allegedly government informants. Alleged conspiracy by FBI agents did not cause victim's death and was not aimed at causing his death, but rather to preserve the organized crime leaders in question as informants. Estate of Halloran v. United States, 268 F. Supp. 2d 91 (D. Mass. 2003). [2003 LR Nov]
Police and other city employees did not "create" the danger to storeowner in a high-crime area of being shot when compelled to stay late at the store because of the insistence of the defendants on conducting an inspecting after normal store hours. No liability for refusal to provide an escort of storeowner and employees to their cars after inspection ended, or for subsequent shooting and killing of storeowner and shooting of store employee by unknown persons. Gonzales v. City of Camden, 815 A.2d 489 (N.J. Super. A.D. 2003). [2003 LR Oct]
Update: appeals court upholds ruling that officer's failure to immediately report his reasonable suspicion that a female middle school teacher was sexually abusing one of her female students did not subject him or the city to liability for violation of the student's due process rights. Windle v. City of Marion, Indiana, 321 F.3d 658 (7th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Oct]
While there was no general duty to provide police protection or investigate a particular crime, an African-American man stated a claim for violation of the right to equal protection of the law by asserting that officers failed to conduct any substantial investigation of shots being fired at his car solely on the basis of his race. Roman v. City of Reading, 257 F. Supp. 2d 799 (E.D. Pa. 2003). [2003 LR Sep]
Officer may have had a duty to protect a woman who called 911 when she was restrained in her apartment by an attacker, but his decision, in investigating the call, to knock, look in a window, and leave when he received no response was not unreasonable. May v. Franklin County Bd. of Com'rs, No. 01-4000, 59 Fed. Appx. 786 (6th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Jul]
Police officer and police legal advisor did not violate the due process rights of a 19-year-old mentally disabled girl by returning her, upon her request, to the home of a 39-year-old man she met over the Internet who she described as her boyfriend. They did not know that he had allegedly repeatedly raped her or that he would allegedly do so again after she was returned to his home, and they had no authority to detain her. Bukowski v. City of Akron, No. 01-4248, 326 F.3d 702 (6th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Jul]
Police department was not liable for allegedly failing to take action to prevent a workplace shooting after receiving a phone call from a workplace manager reporting a threat of violence to employees. City had no constitutional duty to investigate any particular threat of violence made by private persons. Hernandez v. City of Goshen, #02-3268, 324 F.3d 535 (7th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Jul]
Police officers who declined to enter an apartment when responding to a neighbor's 911 call reporting that a woman inside had screamed were not "deliberately indifferent" to the rights of the woman resident who was raped and murdered. The officers heard nothing from inside during their investigation and made a good faith decision not to attempt to enter. Schieber v. City of Philadelphia, No. 01-2312, 320 F.3d 409 (3rd Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Jun]
Nebraska Supreme Court rejects argument by mother of cross-dressing woman that $98,223 in damages for failure of county sheriff to protect her daughter against murder by two men she accused of rape was inadequate. Court notes that mother's relationship with her daughter was "strained." Brandon v. County of Richardson, #S-01-1158, 653 N.W.2d 829 (Neb. 2002). [2003 LR Apr]
Police officers were not individually liable and were entitled to qualified immunity for allegedly increasing a shooting victim's risk of death by transporting him to a hospital in a police vehicle rather than waiting for an ambulance. Officers did not create the danger to the shooting victim or act with deliberate indifference for his safety. City was also not responsible, in the absence of a showing that it had failed to properly train the officers or had a policy which deprived the shooting victim of his rights. Hansberry v. City of Philadelphia, 232 F. Supp. 2d 404 (E.D. Pa. 2002). [2003 LR Apr]
Oregon resident assaulted in front of her house could pursue lawsuit against city under state law for negligence based on police detective's alleged action of instructing a neighbor not to warn other residents about a robber thought to be operating in the area. Sande v. City of Portland, 9709-06947, A107724, 59 P.3d 595 (Or. App. 2002). [2003 LR Mar]
Nightclub patron shot in its parking lot could pursue his lawsuit alleging that town's negligent inspection and licensing of club was a cause of his injury when there purportedly had been numerous prior police reports of violence and shootings in the parking lot of the building that housed the club, as well as complaints by neighbors about violence, disturbances, and public drinking there. Adams v. Traina, No. 36,306-CA, 830 So. 2d 526 (La. App. 2d Cir. 2002). [N/R]
Civil rights claim could be pursued on behalf of child allegedly abused in foster care by private person based on county official's alleged inadequate investigation into claims of mistreatment. Serena H. v. Kovarie, 209 F. Supp. 2d 453 (E.D. Pa. 2002). [N/R]
California Supreme Court rules that county and sheriff's department were not liable for negligence for failing to protect a woman from being fatally shot by her ex-husband at a courthouse. The defendants did not increase the risk of harm to the decedent, and the posting of signs "warning" persons of the alleged lack of security at the courthouse would have discouraged litigants from resorting to the courts. Those entering courthouse were, in any event, aware that persons entering were not screened for weapons. Zelig v. County of Los Angeles, #S081791, 119 Cal. Rptr. 2d 709, 45 P.3d 1171 (Cal. 2002). [2002 LR Aug]
Police officer's failure to immediately report his reasonable suspicion that a female middle school teacher was sexually abusing one of her female students did not subject him or the city liable for violation of the student's due process rights. Doe v. City of Marion, 196 F. Supp. 2d 750 (N.D. Ind. 2002). [2002 LR Aug]
Jury awards $35.5 million against town for failure to destroy assault rifle turned into department; weapon was instead issued to officer who took it home and kept it in gun cabinet which his son had access to; son used weapon to kill two Border patrol agents and injury a deputy sheriff. Salinas v. City of Harlingen, No. B-98-162, U.S. District Court, (S.D. Texas), reported in The National Law Journal, p. A6 (March 4, 2002). [2002 LR Apr]
"Public duty" doctrine does not bar, in Michigan, lawsuit by kidnap/rape victim against police dispatcher for allegedly failing to disclose to the police the location of her assailant following conversations with the assailant's mother, who was her friend. Beaudre v. Henderson, No. 114261, 631 N.W.2d 308 (Mich. 2001). [2002 LR Jan]
347:171 Man shot by confidential informant with gun allegedly borrowed from police officer could sue officer on "state-created-danger" theory; officer was not entitled to qualified immunity; city was not liable, however, as no policy or customer of inadequate storage of evidence (including the gun) was shown, and no policy of inadequate training. McClendon v. City of Columbia, No. 00-60256, 258 F.3d 432 (5th Cir. 2001).
344:124 Deputy who shot a hostage during a shootout with store armed robbers did not violate hostage's Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment rights. Lee v. Williams, 138 F. Supp. 2d 748 (E.D. Va. 2001).
347:172 Victims of $120,000 cash robbery outside of nail salon did not succeed in establishing an "equal protection" claim based on their assertion that officers inadequately investigated the crime against them because they were not members of a "good old boy network" in their Texas city. Harvey v. City of Conroe, Texas, 148 F. Supp. 2d 783 (S.D. Tex. 2000).
343:107 Alleged failure to protect female child against murder by her stepfather when officials knew that he had threatened to kill her if she reported his sexual abuse of her stated a claim for violation of her due process rights, when she allegedly been told that protection would be provided. Sophapmysay v. City of Sergeant Bluff, 126 F. Supp. 2d 1180 (N.D. Iowa 2000).
342:90 County sheriff had a duty to protect cross- dressing rape victim against threats by her assailants that they would kill her if she reported the crime; sheriff's "demeaning" and "accusatory" statements to victim during interview were "outrageous" as a matter of law; Nebraska Supreme Court rules that mother of murdered rape victim must be awarded full $80,000 for decedent's pain and suffering, as well as some amount for loss of companionship and orders further proceedings on emotional distress claim based on sheriff's conduct. Brandon v. County of Richardson, #S-00-022, 624 N.W.2d 604 (Neb. 2001).
341:76 UPDATE: $26 million award against city for failure to protect woman against alleged murder plot by killers hired by her boyfriend overturned; no city policy alleged increased the danger to her, at most it left her in the same danger she was already in. Piotrowski v. City of Houston, No. 98-21032, 237 F.3d 567 (5th Cir. 2001), rehearing & rehearing en banc denied, 251 F.3d 729 (5th Cir. 2001).
338:27 Officers and city could not be held liable for failure to make forcible entry into woman's apartment following neighbors' 911 call reporting screaming and dog barking coming from inside in the early morning; no liability
for murder of woman, allegedly after officers left, when apartment was quiet when officers arrived. White v. City of Philadelphia, 118 F. Supp. 2d 564 (E.D. Pa. 2000).
337:5 Family of woman killed by her estranged husband could assert a claim for violation of equal protection based on alleged failure to provide police protection because of gender, regardless of whether they could show that this failure helped cause the murder or indeed caused any actual harm at all; nominal damages could still be awarded if a constitutional violation without actual harm was proven. Macias, Estate of, v. Ihde, #99-15662, 219 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2000).
333:138 Montana Supreme Court rules that police officers who transported a suicidal girl to the hospital, and allowed her sister to ride along, entered into a special relationship of custody or control over the sister, imposing a duty to adequately supervise her; court reinstates lawsuit against the city for failure to protect hospital nurse from assault by the sister. LaTray v. City of Havre, No. 99-286, 999 P.2d 1010 (Mont. 2000).
326:26 Detective exercised his discretion by deciding not to pursue investigation of alleged domestic violence until the following morning; city was not liable for facially neutral domestic violence policy when it could not be shown that woman, shot and killed by her ex-husband, had been treated differently than male victims of domestic violence. Williams v. City of Montgomery, Alabama, 48 F.Supp. 2d 1317 (M.D. Ala. 1999).
323:173 California appeals court rules that governmental immunity did not apply to failure to provide metal detectors in courthouse; surviving family of woman killed by her ex-husband in courthouse lobby could possibly sue county for failure to protect her against foreseeable risk of violence. Zelig v. County of Los Angeles, 86 Cal.Rptr.2d 693 (Cal. App. 1999).
323:172 Ex-officer not liable for failure to stop and investigate disabled truck from which female motorist was abducted and murdered or for later allegedly lying about when he first encountered the vehicle; link between his alleged misconduct and any loss that motorist's parents suffered was "too tenuous." Webb v. Haas, 728 A.2d 1261 (Me. 1999).
321:142 Police officers who failed to make arrests when summoned to a fight at drinking party were not liable when ousted party-goer subsequently returned to party with a gun and killed a man; officers did nothing which created or enhanced the danger to the decedent. Burke, Estate of, v. Mahanoy City, 40 F.Supp. 2d 274 (E.D. Pa. 1999).
301:13 Alabama sheriff and sheriff's deputy were both entitled to sovereign immunity from liability under state law in lawsuit brought by woman shot by fugitive that deputy failed to arrest when he found him at home after receiving a report he had shot and killed an officer in another state. Purvis, Ex parte, 689 So.2d 794 (Ala. 1997).
304:59 Federal appeals court rules that negligence in failing to act against alleged racial conspiracy involving rioting against Korean stores following Rodney King verdict could be basis for federal civil rights lawsuit against city. Park v. City of Atlanta, 120 F.3d 1157 (11th Cir. 1997).
305:77 New York City gives $200,000 settlement to Hasidic man and his 12-year-old son in lawsuit over alleged failure to protect them from assault during racial disturbance. Bitton v. New York City, U.S. Dist. Ct., N.Y., N.Y., reported in The New York Times, National Edition, p. A18 (January 26, 1998).
305:78 Federal jury awards woman $22.3 million against city for alleged failure to investigate tip about her former boyfriend's alleged attempt to hire men to kill her; suit claimed that officers also interfered with her possible protection, resulting in her being shot four times and paralyzed. Piotrowski v. City of Houston, H-95-4046 (S.D. Tex., Jan. 20, 1998), reported in The Natl. Law Jour. p. A11 (Feb. 23, 1998).
306:92 City to pay $1.1 million in damages and $250,000 in attorneys' fee in federal civil rights lawsuit claiming inadequate police protection of Hasidic Jews, including murdered Australian rabbinical student, during four days of violence that followed death of 7 year-old black male struck and killed by car driven by Hasidic Jew. Rosenbaum v. City of New York, U.S. Dist. Ct., Brooklyn N.Y., reported in The New York Times, p. 1 (April 3, 1998).
307:109 Woman who dressed like a male raped and later murdered, allegedly by those who raped her; sheriff was not liable to decedent's estate for failure to immediately arrest her alleged attackers when she expressed no concern about imminent peril. Brandon v. Lotter, 976 F.Supp. 872 (D. Neb. 1997).
308:124 County and sheriff not liable, under Tennessee state law, for deaths of two individuals murdered by man for whom there was an outstanding arrest warrant; no liability for failure to make the arrest as executing arrest warrants was a duty owed to the general public rather than to any individual. Hurd v. Woolfork, 959 S.W.2d 578 (Tenn. App. 1997).
308:125 Police chief's alleged failure to investigate minor females' charges that their father sexually abused them did not lead to federal civil rights liability, in absence of proof that he took this action with intent to discriminate against them as females, minors, or victims of domestic abuse. Hayden v. Grayson, 134 F.3d 449 (1st Cir. 1998).
289:13 City was not liable for injuries retail store employee suffered during assault by robbers Nicolosi v. City of New York, 637 N.Y.S.2d 792 (A.D. 1996).
290:28 Michigan Supreme Court rules that police officer who arrived on scene of domestic disturbance in response to neighbors' 911 phone calls, but allegedly did not attempt to contact woman who neighbors stated had been attacked by her husband, was not liable for woman's death three hours later; no special relationship, imposing a duty of protection, existed between decedent and officer, as there was no direct contact between them White v. Beasley, 552 NW2d 1 (Mich 1996).
291:45 New Mexico Supreme Court rules that both rape victim and her parents (who heard attack occurring because their daughter was talking to them on the phone when the assault occurred). could sue officers for alleged negligent failure to properly forward paperwork to prosecutor's office, resulting in assailant's release from detention on previous rape charge, allowing him to be out of custody and attack her Weinstein v. City of Santa Fe, 916 P.2d 1313 (NM 1996).
293:77 Despite assurances that downtown area of city would be "secure" following Rodney King verdict, city had no special duty to provide protection to businesses or persons of Korean shopkeepers, and, in fact, did provide some protection, rescuing them from mob after delay; decision to move officers away was not based on nationality and so did not violate equal protection Park v. City of Atlanta, 938 F.Supp. 836 (N.D.Ga 1996).
295:108 Probation officer's failure to make home visits with probationer Jeffrey Dahmer did not constitute "reckless" conduct which would make her liable for one of Dahmer's subsequent murders Weinberger v. State of Wisconsin, 105 F.3d 1182 (7th Cir. 1997).
Back to list of subjects Back
to Legal Publications Menu