The Second Department determined the town’s motion for summary judgment was properly denied. Plaintiff’s decedent had called the town police and told them her husband had assaulted her and that she feared for her life. The town police confiscated her husband’s gun. The town returned the gun upon learning the husband was a retired police officer, even though he was not licensed to possess a gun in New York. He shot and killed plaintiff’s decedent and then took his own life:
Government action, if discretionary, may not be a basis for liability, while ministerial actions may be, but only if they violate a special duty owed to the plaintiff, apart from any duty to the public in general … . Here … the return of the firearm … was not a discretionary function. [Decedent’s husband] did not, … produce a license to possess the gun in the State of New York, and did not produce the proper identification under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act … . * * *
… [T]he evidence demonstrated the existence of triable issues of fact as to whether the Town, through its police officers, voluntarily assumed a duty on behalf of the decedent when they confiscated [the] gun in response to the decedent’s alleged report that [her husband] had physically assaulted her.
… The Town was not entitled to summary judgment … on the ground that [decedent”s husband’s] shooting of the decedent was an intervening act that severed the causal connection between the Town’s alleged negligence … and the injuries and death to the decedent … . An intervening act may not serve as a superseding cause, and relieve an actor of responsibility, where the risk of the intervening act occurring is the very same risk which renders the actor negligent … . Santaiti v Town of Ramapo, 2021 NY Slip Op 04986, Second Dept 9-15-21