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Case Study

Wrongful Death Action Against Municipalities, Police Departments Dismissed in Federal Court

November 2, 2011
Karen Saab-Dominguez

Karen Saab-Dominguez, a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Municipal and Governmental Liability Practice Group, successfully defended a Long Island town and its public safety department in federal court against civil rights claims stemming from the high-profile 2008 murder of an Ecuadorian immigrant by six teenagers.

The plaintiff in this case, the administrator of the decedent’s estate, asserted a civil rights claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 as well as state law claims of negligence against the municipalities. The plaintiff claimed the municipalities violated the decedent’s substantive due process right to be free from harm by failing to properly protect him from the group of individuals who attacked and killed him, pointing to the Substantive Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state law claims alleged negligence in the hiring, retention, and training of law enforcement officers.

On November 2, 2011, Hon. Leonard D. Wexler of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a decision dismissing the complaint against the municipalities in its entirety. The court agreed with our position that while there is a Constitutional right to the integrity of one’s life, the Constitution imposes no duty on the part of public defendants to protect individuals from privately inflicted harm.

The victory saves our municipal clients the $40 million in damages sought by the plaintiff.