Coley v. City of Hartford
For discretionary act immunity, the threshold inquiry in determining whether a duty is ministerial or discretionary is whether there exists a directive compelling a municipality or its agent to act in a prescribed manner but, the existence of such a directive alone is not necessarily sufficient to create a duty; a directive can only create a duty to an individual if the individual is a member of the class of people the directive sought to protect. Jahmesha Williams called police reporting that her child's father, Gerard Chapdelaine, attempted to gain entry to her home and brandished a revolver, threatening her life. Williams lived with her son and mother, Lorna Coley. When officers responded Chapdelaine could not be located. The officers, learning that Williams had a protective order against Chapdelaine prohibiting contact, left the residence to prepare an arrest warrant. Approximately three hours later, officers again were dispatched to the residence and found Coley shot and killed. Orville Coley, administrator of the estate of Lorna Coley, filed a lawsuit against the city of Hartford alleging that its officers were negligent including in failing to arrest Chapdelaine, to remain at the scene for a reasonable amount of time and in following Hartford police department's internal police response procedures for responding to cases of family violence. The trial court rendered summary judgment to the city finding that the officers' actions were discretionary, not ministerial, and that the exception to municipal immunity for discretionary acts when an identifiable person is in imminent harm was not applicable. The plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff argued, inter alia, that C.G.S. §46b-38b (d) imposed a duty upon the officers to remain at the scene. The Appellate Court found that the condition precedent in the statute, that the officers determine that there is no cause for arrest, did not occur here. The statute was wholly inapplicable and could not create a ministerial or discretionary duty. The city's police response procedures did not create a ministerial duty to Coley as alleged. Any duty owed under those procedures was owed to the victim of domestic violence, Williams, and not her mother. Because no directive created any duty toward Coley, the officers' acts could not serve as a basis for imposing liability upon them for her death.