The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court in this third-party assault case, determined the city could not be held liable for the injury and death of plaintiff’s decedent at the hands of her son. The police had been called to plaintiff’s decedent’s home because of an altercation between her and her son, Matthew. The police did not arrest her son. The next day her son attacked her with a baseball bat and she died from her injuries. The Second Department held that the decision not to arrest the son was an exercise of discretion which is protected by the doctrine of governmental immunity:
The governmental function immunity defense cannot attach unless the municipal defendant establishes that the discretion possessed by its employees was in fact exercised in relation to the conduct on which liability is predicated … . The immunity afforded a municipality presupposes an exercise of discretion in compliance with its own procedures … . The basis for the value judgment supporting immunity and denying individual recovery for injury becomes irrelevant where the municipality violates its own internal rules and policies and exercises no judgment or discretion … . Immunity is not available unless the municipality establishes that the action taken actually resulted from discretionary decision-making, meaning the exercise of reasoned judgment which could typically produce different acceptable results … .
Here, the defendants established … that the City was entitled to judgment as a matter of law … by its submissions, which demonstrated that the police officers’ actions were discretionary, and they did not fail to follow the police department’s rules and policies in deciding not to arrest Matthew … . The evidence demonstrated that the officers determined that Matthew had committed a violation during the altercation with his mother. Since the officers determined that no crime had been committed, pursuant to CPL 140.10(4)(c) and the patrol guide mandates, the officers were not compelled to arrest Matthew. The evidence further demonstrated that the officers’ decision involved reasoned judgment and an exercise of discretion in compliance with departmental procedures. Devlin v City of New York, 2021 NY Slip Op 02275, Second Dept 4-14-21