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Valdez v City of New York

A Bronx jury awarded Carmen Valdez $10 million for injuries suffered (in 1996!) when her ex-boyfriend shot her in the face on the theory that the police breached the duty to protect her after she obtained an order of protection and phoned in a death threat to them. (The City disputes that they knew about the death threat, but the appellate court needs to take that fact as a given.) An appeals court reversed last week, but on the narrow ground that Valdez didn't justifiably rely on the police because she never called back to see if they had arrested her ex-boyfriend before leaving the house.

Because it was a split decision, the New York high court will consider the issue, and could avoid a lot of trouble by reestablishing the principle that taxpayers are not liable for the criminal acts of third parties. As it is, courts are forced into fact-pattern contortions to reach the same result—with the perverse result that a police department is less liable if they ignore a complaint than if they send a visible police presence to the address (because the latter could trigger "justifiable reliance"). John Hochfelder has a plaintiff-sympathetic analysis on his blog.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.