Wong v. City of Miami

Citation237 So.2d 132
Decision Date17 June 1970
Docket NumberNo. 39295,39295
PartiesWilliam WONG, William F. Mah, Herbert Brameister, Marilyn Edelblum, Sampson's Market, Inc. and the Shelly Corporation d/b/a Bon Marche Cleaner's, Petitioners, v. CITY OF MIAMI, a municipal corporation, and Dade County, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, Respondents.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Larry S. Stewart, of Frates, Fay, Floyd & Pearson, Miami, for petitioners.

Alan H. Rothstein, City Atty., and John S. Lloyd, Asst. City Atty., for City of Miami.

Thomas C. Britton, County Atty., and St. Julien P. Rosemond, First Asst. County Atty., for County of Dade.

CARLTON, Justice.

Upon petitioners' application, we review here a decision of the District Court of Appeal, Third District, 229 So.2d 659, certified as one passing upon a question of great public interest,

'(B)ecause it passes on the liability of a municipality or political subdivision of the State for damage occasioned to citizen or his property during a riot, or time of civil disobedience, etc.'

Through its decision, the District Court, by vote of two-to-one, affirmed an order entered by the Circuit Court, Dade County, dismissing petitioners' complaint for failure to state a cause of action. We approve this affirmance.

This litigation stems from disorders which occurred in the City of Miami in August, 1968, while the Republican National Convention was being held on Miami Beach. A rally featuring civil rights speakers was scheduled in Miami for the afternoon and evening of August 7th. Merchants bordering the rally area requested increased police protection as they were fearful of possible results of the assembly. Subsequently, numerous city police officers were stationed in the vicinity. As the evening wore on, these officers were removed by direct order of the Mayor. This removal was confirmed by an order issued by the Sheriff of the County.

Thereafter, certain participants in the rally lost restraint and turned to plundering neighboring stores. By the time police control was re-established, damage in excess of $100,000.00 had been sustained by the merchants who are petitioners here.

Petitioners filed suit for damages against respondents, primarily on the theory that removal of the officers was a careless and negligent act since respondents knew, or should have known, that damage to petitioners' interests would result. The City countered with a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action because: (1) No sufficient connection was alleged between withdrawal of the officers and the injuries complained of; (2) Police protection was a duty owed the public generally which would not inure to the benefit of particular private citizens; and, (3) Removal of officers was within the realm of governmental discretion. The County countered with a motion for summary judgment. The Circuit Court granted respondents' motions and dismissed petitioners' complaint with prejudice.

The arguments advanced by the litigants here are similar to those advanced below. Petitioners recognize that police protection is a duty owed to the public generally, but contend that by stationing officers at the request of petitioners, the respondent City took on itself a specific obligation to exercise due care. Petitioners cite as authority for this proposition cases such as Hargrove v. Town of Cocoa Beach, 96 So.2d 130 (Fla. 1957), Shealor v. Ruud, 221 So.2d 765 (4th D.C.A. Fla. 1969), and Tweedale v. City of St. Petersburg, 125 So.2d 920 (2nd D.C.A. Fla. 1961). The District Court Judge dissenting below agreed with this line of reasoning and said, 229 So.2d at 662:

'I am not in disagreement with the rule of law observed by the majority that at common law a governmental unit had no responsibility for damage inflicted upon its citizens or property therein as a result of a riot or unlawful assembly. However, I consider the rule is not applicable where, without...

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58 cases
  • Avallone v. Board of County Com'rs of Citrus County, 67074
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 10, 1986
    ...(Fla.1971). The majority's disapproval of these decisions is both unwarranted and unwise. As this Court stated in Wong v. City of Miami, 237 So.2d 132 (Fla.1970), the right to determine strategy and tactics for the deployment of personnel is inherent in the police power of sovereign states.......
  • Ransom v. City of Garden City, 16430
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 24, 1987
    ...developing situations. That is, in fact, an allocation-of-resources strategy decision similar to that discussed in Wong v. City of Miami, 237 So.2d 132 (Fla.1970), cited with approval in Commercial Carrier. It cannot be fairly argued that the police officer who returned Marion Willard to th......
  • Wallace v. Dean, SC08-149.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 29, 2009
    ...has never been a common law duty of care to individual property owners to provide fire protection services."); Wong v. City of Miami, 237 So.2d 132, 134 (Fla. 1970) (the allocation of police manpower during a riot involves a public duty (i.e., protection of public safety), which is also dis......
  • Gates v. Superior Court, B083893
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 15, 1995
    ...and employees are not liable whether they provide too little police protection or too much. (Ibid.; Wong v. City of Miami (Fla.1970) 237 So.2d 132, 134.) That is not, however, the question presented in this case. The question presented in this case is whether public entities and employees a......
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