Municipal Liability | Can I Sue The City? | “Special Duty”
MUNICIPAL LIABILITY | CAN I SUE THE CITY? | CASES AGAINST NEW YORK CITY | “SPECIAL DUTY”
There is a basic rule that is applied when a lawsuit is contemplated against a municipal entity, such as the City of New York. That rule gives the City, or any municipality, “absolute immunity” for the acts of that government’s employees. This holds true even if those employees failed to act when they should have, or having acted, they did so in a negligent manner.
An individual resident of the City will have no basis for a successful lawsuit for injuries sustained through the acts of the City’s employees UNLESS that individual can demonstrate that a “SPECIAL DUTY” existed on the part of the City in favor of that particular individual.
The New York Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) established four “elements” that create a “SPECIAL DUTY” relationship between a municipality and an individual:
— the municipality assumes a duty to act on behalf of the individual;
— the municipality’s employees must be aware of the fact that a failure to act may result in harm to that individual;
— there must have been some direct contact between the municipality’s employees or agents and the affected individual; and
— the individual harmed must have been justified in relying upon the assurance given to him/her by the city’s employees or agents.
Without demonstrating the existence of each and every one of these four elements, the injury incurred through the acts or omissions of municipal employees may go entirely uncompensated.
An experienced Personal Injury Attorney will also be aware of the fact that certain broad areas of acts by municipal employees are not considered “governmental” in nature–which acts ARE subject to the rules of “Special Duty Relationships”—but are , rather, considered “proprietary” in nature, and are instead decided by ordinary rules of liability and do not require the establishment of a “special duty” in order for the city to be held liable.