This case is about a car accident which occurred in a slippery road due to the presence of snow and ice. Plaintiff wanted to recover damages for injuries allegedly sustained due to the negligence of the defendants when the vehicle of the latter struck her. The County Of Suffolk, Suffolk County Department of Public Works, and the Suffolk County Police Department, were also included as defendants because they failed, inter alia, to keep and maintain Vanderbilt Parkway clear and free of accumulating ice, failed to spread salt, sand or other substances; failed to inspect the roadway where water and ice would remain, and failed to warn of the condition. In addition, plaintiff alleged that defendant County of Suffolk had actual notice of the subject icy, hazardous condition and failed to timely and properly act thus breaching its duty to maintain the roadway in a reasonably safe condition.
The County of Suffolk sought summary judgment dismissing the complaint against it on the basis that the County was afforded no prior written notice of the alleged defective or dangerous roadway so as to comply with the mandates of Suffolk County Charter C8-2A as a condition precedent to this action; and that the Suffolk County Police Department owed no special duty to the plaintiffs.
The evidence indicates that at the time of the car accident there was a slippery, snowy, icy area in the vicinity of Commack Middle School on Vanderbilt Parkway. The Police Officer responding to the scene testified that prior to the accidents on Vanderbilt Parkway he called in by radio to the police department to have the County send out a truck to sand the area where the accident occurred due to the snow and ice on the roadway. A Brooklyn employee of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works Highway Engineering Division testified that she did not receive any calls concerning snow or ice conditions on Vanderbilt Parkway, and yet she said that the County trucks either plowed, sanded or salted the subject roadway on January 27, 2003 without specifying the specific time it was done, the location of the work, or how the County determined that such work was indicated.
Other testimonies from witnesses established that the Suffolk County Police Department 911 operator received a 911 call prior to the accidents complaining about the snow and ice on Vanderbilt Parkway by the Commack Middle School. The responding Police Officer, despite having been notified of this call testified that he did not respond to the location following his notification of that call. Specifically, the County has not established that it did not have notice of the dangerous condition created by the icy, snowy roadway. And once it did have notice of the condition of the roadway, whether it acted in a non-negligent manner to timely address the condition of the roadway.
Jurisprudence would show that there exists a narrow class of cases in which the court has recognized an exception to the general rule that a municipality may not be held liable for injuries resulting from the failure to provide police protection, and have upheld tort claims based upon a “special relationship” between the municipality and the claimant. The court continued that the elements of this “special relationship” are” (1) an assumption by the municipality, through promises or actions, of an affirmative duty to act on behalf of the party who was injured; (2) knowledge on the part of the municipality’s agents that inaction could lead to harm; (3) some form of direct contact between the municipality’s agents and the injured party; and (4) that party’s justifiable reliance on the municipality’s affirmative undertaking. The court also stated that the injured party’s reliance is as critical in establishing the existence of “special relationship” as is the municipality’s voluntary affirmative undertaking of a duty to act. That element provides the essential causative link between the “special duty” assumed by the municipality and the alleged injury.
Jurisprudence further dictates that “A municipality is generally immune, however from liability for injuries for failure to provide police protection.”
The court held in this case that the plaintiffs’ proof failed to establish the elements of a “special relationship” between the County and the plaintiff that would bring her situation within the exception to the immunity rule as there has been no direct contact between the plaintiff and the County or its agents and the only duty the County assumed was to provide police patrol for the public in general on the roadway undisputedly owned and maintained by the County. The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that there was a direct contact between her and the County defendants or it agents or voluntary reliance by her. Based upon the foregoing, in the absence of proof a special relationship between the plaintiffs and the County, it is determined that the County is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on the issue that no special relationship existed between Plaintiff and the County of Suffolk.
Accordingly, the County’s motion which seeks summary judgment on the issue that there was no “special relationship” between the County and plaintiff is granted as a matter of law.
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