De Long v. Erie County

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtWACHTLER; COOKE
Citation60 N.Y.2d 296,469 N.Y.S.2d 611,457 N.E.2d 717
Parties, 457 N.E.2d 717 Dennis S. DE LONG, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Amalia De Long, Deceased, Respondent, v. COUNTY OF ERIE et al., Appellants.
Decision Date01 November 1983

Page 611

469 N.Y.S.2d 611
60 N.Y.2d 296, 457 N.E.2d 717
Dennis S. DE LONG, Individually and as Administrator of the
Estate of Amalia De Long, Deceased, Respondent,
v.
COUNTY OF ERIE et al., Appellants.
Court of Appeals of New York.
Nov. 1, 1983.

[60 N.Y.2d 298]

Page 613

[457 N.E.2d 718] John J. Heffernan and Peter M. Kooshoian, Buffalo, for County of Erie, appellant.

John J. Naples, Corp. Counsel, Buffalo (Carl Tronolone, Buffalo, of counsel), for City of Buffalo, appellant.

[60 N.Y.2d 299] Philip H. Magner, Jr., Buffalo, for respondent.

[60 N.Y.2d 300] OPINION OF THE COURT

WACHTLER, Judge.

In this suit for damages brought by the family and estate of a woman killed by a burglar, a jury found the City of Buffalo and the County of Erie liable for negligent processing of and response to the victim's call for emergency assistance made on the special 911 number established and serviced by the defendants. The Appellate Division 89 A.D.2d 376, 455 N.Y.S.2d 887 affirmed the judgment with two Judges dissenting and the defendants have appealed.

Two primary issues are presented on the appeal. First, whether by creating the special service, accepting the call for emergency assistance and assuring the caller that help was on the way, the municipal agencies may be said to have established a special relationship with and duty to her, sufficient to hold them liable for negligently directing the police patrol cars to the wrong locality and taking no further action when the responding officers reported no such address as that given. Second, whether the trial court erred in permitting expert testimony concerning the monetary value of a housewife's services on the issue of damages.

In October, 1976 the decedent, Amalia De Long, resided with her husband and three small children in Kenmore, a village adjacent to the City of Buffalo. Her home [457 N.E.2d 719] at 319 Victoria Boulevard was located approximately 1,300 feet from the Kenmore Police Department. One of her neighbors was a captain in that department.

On the morning of October 25 she telephoned for emergency police assistance by dialing 911. At 9:29 her call was answered by a complaint writer employed by Erie County to respond to such requests. The call, lasting approximately 14 seconds, was recorded in its entirety as follows:

Caller: "Police?"

Complaint Writer: "911."

[60 N.Y.2d 301] Caller: "Police, please come, 319 Victoria right away."

Complaint Writer: "What's wrong?"

* * *

* * *

Caller: "I heard a burglar; I saw his face in the back; he was trying to

Page 614

break in the house; please come right away."

Complaint Writer: "Okay, right away."

Caller: "Okay."

The complaint writer erroneously reported the address as 219 Victoria, and mistakenly assumed that the call had originated in Buffalo because he knew there was a Victoria Avenue in the city. Accordingly, after stamping the complaint card "flash" to indicate its high priority, he placed it on a conveyor belt which ran through a glass partition to the radio dispatcher for the Buffalo Police Department. At 9:30 the dispatcher broadcast a report of a burglary in progress to patrol cars in the vicinity of Victoria Avenue in the city. Three minutes later the officers who had responded to the call informed the dispatcher that there was no such address and that the highest number on Victoria was 195. At 9:34 the dispatcher "cleared the call", in effect telling the officers at the scene to disregard it. The dispatcher himself took no further action on the call.

At approximately 9:42 Mrs. De Long was seen running from her house, unclothed and bleeding profusely. She collapsed on the sidewalk in front of her home. A neighbor called the Kenmore Police and within a minute a police car responded--a few minutes later paramedics arrived. However by 9:53 she displayed no vital signs. An autopsy revealed that she had been stabbed several times and had died from loss of blood.

After filing a notice of claim against the city and the county, the decedent's husband commenced an action seeking damages for wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering.

At the trial it was shown that prior to 1975 the City of Buffalo had adopted the 911 number as the one to call for emergency services, including police and fire protection. At that time a person dialing the number within the city [60 N.Y.2d 302] would immediately be connected with the Buffalo Police Department where a complaint writer would take the information and give it to a radio dispatcher who in turn would contact the appropriate patrol cars or other emergency vehicles. The complaint writers, originally police officers and later mostly civilians, together with the dispatchers were trained and supervised by a lieutenant or acting lieutenant from the Buffalo Police Department. In March of 1975 Erie County formed a new agency known as Central Police Services which took over the complaint writing function from the city and extended the 911 services to several communities beyond the city limits, including the Village of Kenmore. Thus in 1975 and 1976 the telephone directory for Erie County listed 911 as the emergency number for the "local police".

Under the system adopted by the county, however, a 911 call made within the City of Buffalo or the extended area would not automatically connect the caller with the police department servicing the caller's area. Instead the call would go to the Center for Emergency Services which, pursuant to an agreement with the city, was located in the old 911 room in the Buffalo Police Department headquarters. The stated purpose of the center was to "accept telephone requests for emergency services for all Public Safety Agencies within the service area of the Center, and relay, transfer, or forward such requests to the Public [457 N.E.2d 720] Safety Agency concerned, without requiring the caller to re-dial another telephone number." At this center the county employed its own complaint writers many of whom, including the one who answered the call in this case, had held the same position with the city. In accordance with the agreement the city was required to provide training, supervision and assistance to the complaint writers for a year or more and was still doing so in October, 1976. A Buffalo police lieutenant or acting lieutenant remained in the room to coordinate the activities of the complaint writers and Buffalo police dispatchers and to furnish assistance of a supervisory nature when necessary.

Most of the procedures previously followed by the city were adopted by the county and incorporated in the "Manual for

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911 Services". The major additional requirement [60 N.Y.2d 303] imposed by the county was that the complaint writers obtain information concerning the location or municipality involved so that the complaint could be forwarded to the police department or other emergency service responsible for...

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364 practice notes
  • Narrod v. Napoli, No. 07–CV–6071 (VEB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • February 4, 2011
    ...119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999); People v. Lee, 96 N.Y.2d 157, 162, 726 N.Y.S.2d 361, 750 N.E.2d 63 (2001); DeLong v. Erie County, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 307, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717 (1983)). Narrod's “quibbles with the trial court's rulings,” Peterson, 2008 WL 2464273, at *6, do no......
  • Powell v. District of Columbia, No. 90-1016.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • February 14, 1992
    ...254, 259-60 (1986); Schear v. Board of County Comm'rs, 101 N.M. 671, 673-674, 687 P.2d 728, 730-31 (1984); DeLong v. County of Erie, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 305-06, 457 N.E.2d 717, 721-22, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 616-17 (1983); Brennen v. City of Eugene, 285 Or. 401, 406-411, 591 P.2d 719, 723-25 (1979) (......
  • Kenford Co., Inc. v. Erie County
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • April 12, 1985
    ...projections (see, e.g., Espana v. United States, 616 F.2d 41, 44 De Long v. County of Erie, 89 A.D.2d 376, 455 N.Y.S.2d 887, affd. 60 N.Y.2d 296, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717 ), the projections used in the instant case simply involve too many variables to permit them to support an award......
  • Rodriguez v. City of New York
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • March 25, 1993
    ...failure to arrest a criminal absent the establishment of a special relationship with the plaintiff. (See De Long v. County of Erie, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 304, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717.) We agree that pursuant to the special relationship doctrine, the trial court should not have permitted t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
364 cases
  • Narrod v. Napoli, No. 07–CV–6071 (VEB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • February 4, 2011
    ...119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999); People v. Lee, 96 N.Y.2d 157, 162, 726 N.Y.S.2d 361, 750 N.E.2d 63 (2001); DeLong v. Erie County, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 307, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717 (1983)). Narrod's “quibbles with the trial court's rulings,” Peterson, 2008 WL 2464273, at *6, do no......
  • Powell v. District of Columbia, No. 90-1016.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • February 14, 1992
    ...254, 259-60 (1986); Schear v. Board of County Comm'rs, 101 N.M. 671, 673-674, 687 P.2d 728, 730-31 (1984); DeLong v. County of Erie, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 305-06, 457 N.E.2d 717, 721-22, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 616-17 (1983); Brennen v. City of Eugene, 285 Or. 401, 406-411, 591 P.2d 719, 723-25 (1979) (......
  • Kenford Co., Inc. v. Erie County
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • April 12, 1985
    ...projections (see, e.g., Espana v. United States, 616 F.2d 41, 44 De Long v. County of Erie, 89 A.D.2d 376, 455 N.Y.S.2d 887, affd. 60 N.Y.2d 296, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717 ), the projections used in the instant case simply involve too many variables to permit them to support an award......
  • Rodriguez v. City of New York
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • March 25, 1993
    ...failure to arrest a criminal absent the establishment of a special relationship with the plaintiff. (See De Long v. County of Erie, 60 N.Y.2d 296, 304, 469 N.Y.S.2d 611, 457 N.E.2d 717.) We agree that pursuant to the special relationship doctrine, the trial court should not have permitted t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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