Sandra Baker v. City New York - Supreme Court of New York

Sandra Baker v. City New York

By Supreme Court of New York

  • Release Date - Published: 1966-04-18
  • Book Genre: Law
  • Author: Supreme Court of New York
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Sandra Baker v. City New York Supreme Court of New York read online review & book description:

Plaintiff, the wife of a police officer (defendant Baker) employed by the defendant city, was shot and seriously injured by her husband in the waiting room of the former Domestic Relations Court of the City of New York on November 2, 1955. Plaintiff and her husband were estranged. An order of protection of the Domestic Relations Court (which had been made on July 14, 1955), had directed the husband ""not to strike, molest, threaten or annoy"" the plaintiff. Moreover, that court had given plaintiff a certificate of the issuance of the order, which certificate provided that, upon its presentation by plaintiff to any peace officer, the latter would be authorized to arrest the husband for violation of the terms of the order and to aid plaintiff. The husband at the time (and since Dec. 30, 1952) had been deprived by the Police Department of his right to own or possess a service revolver and had been assigned to limited duty. Sometime prior to December 30, 1952, the husband had been examined by a psychiatrist at the request of the Presiding Justice of the Domestic Relations Court. The psychiatrist found that the husband suffered from a ""personality disorder, schizoid trends"" and testified that ""this man was an unstable man in my eyes and because of his assignment, that perhaps he could be placed in a situation where even if there were an outburst, there would be a minimal destructiveness, not self-destructiveness, more overt, outward destructiveness."" There was evidence that sometime in October, 1955 the husband had created a disturbance at the family home, that a police officer summoned by plaintiff investigated and refused to take action against the husband, even though the certificate of the order of protection was shown to him by plaintiff, saying that the certificate was ""no good"" and ""only a piece of paper."" These events were narrated to Thomas Painter, a probation officer attached to the Domestic Relations Court. On the day of the shooting plaintiff went to see Painter, who told her that her husband was ill and could not come to court. While making a telephone call in the corridor, plaintiff observed her husband entering the building and told Painter that her husband was present. She asked Painter whether she could not wait in his office, saying that she was ""afraid to stand in the room with him."" Painter told her, instead, to go to the waiting room. Although police officers and attendants were assigned to the court, none of them were in the waiting room then or up to 15 to 20 minutes thereafter, when the shooting took place. In our opinion, plaintiff's proof made out a prima facie case. A municipality may not be held liable for failure to provide general police protection (Murrain v. Wilson Line, 270 App. Div. 372, affd. 296 N. Y. 845), but there may be liability if there exists on the part of the municipality ""some relationship * * * creating a duty to use due care for the benefit of particular persons or classes of persons"" (Motyka v. City of Amsterdam, 15 N.Y.2d 134, 139; cf. Schuster v. City of New York, 5 N.Y.2d 75, 80-81; Farmer v. City of New York, 23 A.D.2d 638). Plaintiff, we think, was a person recognized by the order of protection as one to whom a special duty was owed. The order of protection was issued by the court pursuant to statute (former Domestic Relations Ct. Act, § 92, subd. [7]); and the certificate with which plaintiff was furnished constituted authority to a peace officer, when presented by the plaintiff, to arrest the husband when charged with a violation of the terms of the order (former Domestic Relations Ct. Act, § 126). The order of protection, though a relatively new invention

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