Sorichetti by Sorichetti v. City of New York

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtALEXANDER; WACHTLER
Citation65 N.Y.2d 461,492 N.Y.S.2d 591
Parties, 482 N.E.2d 70, 54 USLW 2062 Dina A. SORICHETTI, an Infant, by Her Mother and Natural Guardian, Josephine SORICHETTI, et al., Respondents, v. CITY OF NEW YORK, Appellant.
Decision Date09 July 1985

Page 591

492 N.Y.S.2d 591
65 N.Y.2d 461, 482 N.E.2d 70, 54 USLW 2062
Dina A. SORICHETTI, an Infant, by Her Mother and Natural
Guardian, Josephine SORICHETTI, et al., Respondents,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, Appellant.
Court of Appeals of New York.
July 9, 1985.

Page 592

Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., Corporation Counsel, New York City (Alfred Weinstein, Leonard Koerner and Francis F. Caputo, New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

Fred Queller, Martin S. Rothman, Alyne I. Diamond and Jeffrey E. Rothman, New York City, for respondents.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ALEXANDER, Judge.

This action was commenced against the City of New York (City) by Dina Sorichetti, an infant, and her mother, Josephine Sorichetti, to recover damages resulting from injuries inflicted on Dina by her father, Frank Sorichetti. Plaintiffs' theory of recovery is that the City, through the New York City Police Department, negligently failed to take Frank Sorichetti into custody or otherwise prevent his assault upon his daughter after being informed that he may have violated a Family Court order of protection and that he had threatened to do harm to the infant. Special Term denied a pretrial motion by the City to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action (95 Misc.2d 451, 408 N.Y.S.2d 219), and the Appellate Division affirmed (70 A.D.2d 573, 417 N.Y.S.2d 202).

Page 593

A jury thereafter returned a verdict in plaintiffs' favor in the amount of $3,000,000 for the infant and $40,000 for the mother. The Appellate Division modified by ordering a new trial on damages unless Dina Sorichetti stipulated to reduce her award to $2,000,000, 102 A.D.2d 709, 476 N.Y.S.2d 257. The infant so stipulated and judgment was entered in the reduced amount. We granted the City's motion for leave to appeal from the judgment, bringing up for review the prior nonfinal Appellate Division order (CPLR 5501).

To uphold the award of damages in this case, we must determine whether a special relationship existed between the infant and the municipality by virtue of (1) the issuance of a judicial order of protection directing Frank Sorichetti to refrain from threatening or assaulting his wife and providing that the order constituted authority for a peace officer to arrest a person charged with violating its terms; and (2) the police department's knowledge of Frank Sorichetti's history of assaultive and abusive conduct toward his family and his immediate threats of harm to his daughter and its response to Josephine Sorichetti's pleas for assistance.

Josephine and Frank Sorichetti were married in 1949, and had three children, the youngest being Dina, who was born in 1969. It appears that Frank drank excessively and that the couple's relationship was quite stormy, with Frank becoming violent and abusive when under the influence of alcohol. In January 1975, Josephine obtained an order of protection in Family Court following a particularly violent incident in which her husband had threatened her and punched her in the chest so forcefully as to send her "flying across the room." The order recited that Frank was "forbidden to assault, menace, harass, endanger, threaten or act in a disorderly manner toward" Josephine. By June 1975, Frank's drinking and abusiveness had intensified. Consequently, Josephine moved out of their residence and took her own apartment. Upon her return in early July to obtain her personal belongings, Frank attacked her with a butcher knife, cutting her hand, which required suturing, and threatened to kill her and the children. The police were summoned from the 43rd precinct, but Frank had fled by the time they arrived. A second order of protection was issued by Family Court and a complaint filed in Criminal Court by Josephine. Frank was arrested by detectives from the 43rd precinct, but Josephine subsequently dropped both the Family Court and criminal charges based on Frank's promise to reform.

Frank's drinking and violent behavior continued, however, and in September 1975, Josephine served divorce papers on him. Frank became enraged and proceeded to destroy the contents of their apartment. He broke every piece of furniture, cut up clothes belonging to his wife and Dina, threw the food out of the refrigerator and bent every knife and fork. The police from the 43rd precinct were summoned, but they refused to arrest Frank because "he lived there."

Family Court entered a third order of protection that also ordered Frank Sorichetti to stay away from Josephine's home. During the ensuing months, Frank continued to harass his wife and daughter, following them in the mornings as they walked to Dina's school and threatening that they "were Sorichettis" and were going to "die Sorichettis", and that he was going to "bury them". Josephine reported these incidents to the 43rd precinct. Additionally, Frank created disturbances at Josephine's place of employment on a number of occasions with the result that she was discharged. On October 9, 1975, Frank was arrested by officers of the 43rd precinct for driving while intoxicated.

On November 6, 1975, Josephine and Frank appeared in Family Court where the order of protection was made final for one year. Included in the order was a provision granting Frank visitation privileges with his daughter each weekend from 10:00 a.m. Saturday until 6:00 p.m. Sunday. It was agreed that Dina would be picked up and dropped off at the 43rd precinct. As

Page 594

required by Family Court Act § 168, the order also recited that: "presentation of this Certificate to any Peace Officer shall constitute authority for said Peace Officer to take into custody the person charged with violating the terms of such Order of Protection and bring said person before this Court and otherwise, so far as lies within his power, to aid the Petitioner in securing the protection such Order was intended to afford."

On the following weekend, Josephine delivered Dina to her husband in front of the 43rd precinct at the appointed time. As he walked away with the child, Frank turned to Josephine and shouted, "You, I'm going to kill you." Pointing to his daughter, he said, "You see Dina; you better do the sign of the cross before this weekend is up." He then made the sign of the cross on himself. Josephine understood her husband's statements and actions to be a death threat, and she immediately entered the police station and reported the incident to the officer at the desk. She showed him the order of protection and reported that her husband had just threatened her and her child. She requested that the officer "pick up Dina and arrest Frank." She also reported the past history of violence inflicted by Frank. The officer told Josephine that because her husband had not "hurt her bodily--did not touch her" there was nothing the police could do. Josephine then returned home.

At 5:30 p.m. the following day, Sunday, Josephine returned to the station house. She was distraught, agitated and crying. She approached the officer at the front desk and demanded that the police pick up Dina and arrest her husband who was then living with his sister some five minutes from the precinct. She showed the officer the order of protection and related the threats made the previous morning as well as the prior incidents and Frank's history of drinking and abusive behavior. The officer testified that he told Josephine that if "he didn't drop her off in a reasonable time, we would send a radio car out."

The officer referred Josephine to Lieutenant Leon Granello, to whom she detailed the prior events. He dismissed the protective order as "only a piece of paper" that "means nothing" and told Josephine to wait outside until 6:00. At 6:00 p.m., Josephine returned to the Lieutenant who told her, "why don't you wait a few minutes * * * Maybe he took her to a movie. He'll be back. Don't worry about it." Josephine made several similar requests, but each time was told "to just wait. We'll just wait." In the meantime, at about 5:20 or 5:30, Officer John Hobbie arrived at the station house. He recognized Josephine, who by then was hysterical, from prior incidents involving the Sorichettis. Specifically, just a few months previously, on June 28, 1975, Hobbie had intervened in an altercation in which Frank, while intoxicated and being abusive, had tried to pull Dina away from a babysitter, cursing and...

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99 practice notes
  • Valencia ex rel. Franco v. Lee, No. CIV.A. 97-3205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 13 Diciembre 2000
    ...under an obligation to act reasonably, and will be liable where its actions fail to meet that standard. Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 470, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 597, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985); see also Raucci v. Town of Rotterdam, 902 F.2d 1050, 1056 (2d a. First Garrett "Special Re......
  • Benson v. Kutsch, No. 18223
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 28 Marzo 1989
    ...do not attempt to define what relationship may give rise to a special duty which creates liability. In Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985), liability was imposed on the city for injuries a father inflicted on his infant daughter. The child's......
  • Tipton v. Town of Tabor, No. 19631
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 28 Agosto 1997
    ...978, 979 (Ala.1984); Commerce & Industry Ins. v. Toledo, 45 Ohio St.3d 96, 543 N.E.2d 1188, 1194 (1989); Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 596, 482 N.E.2d 70, 75 (1985); Riss v. City of New York, 22 N.Y.2d 579, 293 N.Y.S.2d 897, 898-99, 240 N.E.2d 860, 861 (19......
  • Ferreira v. City of Binghamton, Docket No. 17-3234
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 23 Septiembre 2020
    ...579, 293 N.Y.S.2d 897, 240 N.E.2d 860 (1968) (attacker hired by rejected suitor), abusive parents, see Sorichetti v. City of New York , 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985), daycare providers, see McLean , 12 N.Y.3d 194, 878 N.Y.S.2d 238, 905 N.E.2d 1167 (2009), criminals, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
99 cases
  • Valencia ex rel. Franco v. Lee, No. CIV.A. 97-3205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 13 Diciembre 2000
    ...under an obligation to act reasonably, and will be liable where its actions fail to meet that standard. Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 470, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 597, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985); see also Raucci v. Town of Rotterdam, 902 F.2d 1050, 1056 (2d a. First Garrett "Special Re......
  • Benson v. Kutsch, No. 18223
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 28 Marzo 1989
    ...do not attempt to define what relationship may give rise to a special duty which creates liability. In Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985), liability was imposed on the city for injuries a father inflicted on his infant daughter. The child's......
  • Tipton v. Town of Tabor, No. 19631
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 28 Agosto 1997
    ...978, 979 (Ala.1984); Commerce & Industry Ins. v. Toledo, 45 Ohio St.3d 96, 543 N.E.2d 1188, 1194 (1989); Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 596, 482 N.E.2d 70, 75 (1985); Riss v. City of New York, 22 N.Y.2d 579, 293 N.Y.S.2d 897, 898-99, 240 N.E.2d 860, 861 (19......
  • Sterling v. Bloom, No. 15875
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 16 Mayo 1986
    ...relationship existed between Bloom and his probation officer. The New York case cited to by the dissent, Sorichetti v. City of New York, 65 N.Y.2d 461, 492 N.Y.S.2d 591, 482 N.E.2d 70 (1985), and the Washington case, Chambers-Castanes v. King County, 100 Wash.2d 275, 669 P.2d 451 (1983) sim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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