That's Just Wrong

I am a big believer in folks taking personal responsibility for their actions, and I am not at all keen on the idea of blaming others when something bad happens. Sometimes, however, we can and should be held accountable for the actions of others, even when we did nothing wrong ourselves. A recent case from Staten Island proves my point, although I think the Court got it wrong in the end.

A middle aged man was home alone one day when three teenagers in foster care from a "group home" next door broke in and beat and stabbed the man to death. The three teenagers were charged and found guilty of murder in criminal court. The man's family then hired an injury lawyer and sued the City of Staten Island (which was responsible for the foster care program) for the man's "wrongful death", claiming that the City was negligent in causing the man's death because it did not protect him from the three teenagers and their "violent propensities". What were the teenagers' "violent propensities" that the City knew about? Only that two of the three teenagers had prior convictions for murder, and all of them had lengthy criminal histories including crimes of violence. The man's family argued (rightly, in my opinion) that the City owed a duty to the man and others in the neighborhood to keep them safe from violent, vicious children in the City's foster care program.

The case went to trial and the trial court ruled in favor of the man's family, awarding the family over $2,000,000. However, the case was appealed and the appellate court ruled that the City was entitled to "immunity" when exercising "discretion" as a governmental entity, and therefore not responsible. Apparently, the "discretion" exercised by City officials, was choosing not to take any measures whatsoever to protect neighbors from violent thugs living in the group home. What a crock of $%#@!

Again, I am not big into blaming others when bad things happen, but this case is a travesty. How else can the City of Staten Island become motivated to protect its citizens if it is not punished when it fails to do so, on its own? That's just wrong.