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November 19, 2014

A public entity may have liability for damages resulting from an accident if it has a “special relationship” with the injured party


A public entity may have liability for damages resulting from an accident if it has a “special relationship” with the injured party
Delanoy v City of White Plains, 2014 NY Slip Op 07615, Appellate Division, Second Department

Joseph J. Delanoy, Jr sued the City of White Plains seeking to recover damages for personal injuries.

The jury issued a verdict on the issue of liability finding White Plains 58% at fault in the happening of the accident. The City appealed the jury’s finding that there was a “special relationship” and asked the Appellate Division to set aside the verdict on the issue of liability or, in the alternative, to set aside the jury verdict as contrary to the weight of the evidence.

The Appellate Division denied the City’s appeal.

The court held that there a “special relationship” between the City of White Plains and Delanoy was created when the City's plumbing inspector directed Delanoy to perform a clearly unsafe air pressure test.

The Appellate Division explained that the Court of Appeals has recognized three situations in which a duty may arise by way of a special relationship between a public entity and a plaintiff:

"(1) the plaintiff belonged to a class for whose benefit a statute was enacted;

“(2) the government entity voluntarily assumed a duty to the plaintiff beyond what was owed to the public generally; or

“(3) the municipality took positive control of a known and dangerous safety condition"

In this instance only the third situation was at issue, i.e.: Did the City take positive control of a known and dangerous safety condition?

Notwithstanding the City’s arguments to the contrary, the Appellate Division ruled that the jury's determination that the City and its inspector took positive control of a known and dangerous safety condition which gave rise to Delanoy’s injuries was supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and, thus, was not contrary to the weight of the evidence.

Neither, said the court, was the jury's determination that the inspector was performing ministerial acts rather than discretionary acts contrary to the weight of the evidence.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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