Connecticut Officer Not Liable for Woman’s Death After Failure to Respond to Report

Lawsuits against a municipality can be tricky because municipalities are generally immune from Connecticut personal injury claims. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently considered a case against a municipality involving an officer who failed to respond to a report of a woman in danger who was found dead the following morning.

Police SirensAccording to the court’s recitation of the facts, there was a severe thunderstorm one evening in June, and at around 7:30 p.m., someone reported to a constable that a woman was standing in a field with her hands raised to the sky and that she needed medical attention. The field was about a half mile away from the ocean. The constable told the person that “he would take care of the situation.”

The constable called 911 and told the dispatcher. The dispatcher later testified that she did not put the call in or write it down because she forgot. The constable drove by the field later that night but did not see anyone and did not get out of the car to check. The next morning, the woman was found drowned along the shore in Long Island Sound about one mile from where she was seen in the field.

The administrator of the woman’s estate claimed that the constables in the town were negligent in responding to the report themselves. The defendants claimed they were immune from suit as municipal employees. The plaintiffs argued the defendants were not immune, claiming they fell under the “identifiable person, imminent harm” exception. An appellate court found they might not be immune from suit under that exception. The appellate court found that the woman was an identifiable victim subject to imminent harm. The court found the defendants’ failure to respond to the report themselves may have made it more likely that the woman would be harmed by the storm.

However, Connecticut’s Supreme Court found that the woman’s drowning was “far too attenuated” from the risk of harm from the storm and thus did not give the defendant a duty to act to prevent it. It explained that drowning in a body of water half a mile away from a field was not a foreseeable harm. The Court also noted that the defendants did not ignore the risk of her drowning by failing to respond and instead relaying the report to a 911 dispatcher. However, the Court noted that under other circumstances, such as if the woman had been a child instead of an adult, the defendants would likely have had a duty to act immediately.

Governmental Immunity

Federal, state, and local governments are generally immune to lawsuits under statutes that afford them immunity. However, there are exceptions to governmental immunity that allow people to file tort actions against certain entities in some circumstances. In Connecticut, a municipality is generally immune from lawsuits for acts or omissions that require the exercise of discretion in carrying out an official function. However, if a municipal officer’s failure to act would likely subject an “identifiable person to imminent harm,” the municipality may be held liable.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Injuries can take a serious physical and mental toll, and they often bring severe financial difficulties as well. At Brickley Law, we are committed to helping you recover financially so that you can move forward with your life. When you retain our New Canaan personal injury lawyer, you receive the caring, qualified, and experienced representation that you deserve. We serve individuals throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut in personal injury, probate, and employment law claims. Call Brickley Law now at (203) 599-3600.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Proving Negligence in Connecticut Car Accident Cases, Connecticut Injury Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2018.

Connecticut Supreme Court Considers Whether School Is Liable for Failure to Supervise Students, Connecticut Injury lawyer Blog, February 13, 2018.

Contact Information