Subway Crime

I was injured during an incident on the subway. I was attacked by several youths. There was a conductor on the subway but he did nothing to stop the attack on myself or the other passengers. Do I have a claim against the City?

Generally speaking, the City of New York and the New York City Police Department do not guarantee the safety of its citizens from crime. The argument against municipal liability boils down to economics. The City cannot afford to hire and deploy police to protect everyone, everywhere, at all times. Many times, the police can only offer a deterrent to crime. That deterrent is that the police will investigate crimes after they are committed and potentially arrest and offer cases to the District Attorney to prosecute alleged criminals. Every time a crime is committed by a perpetrator, that perpetrator may be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated for the crime. It is that possibility of incarceration that acts as a deterrent to potential criminals.

In order for the City to be responsible for the damages to a crime victim, there must be a “special relationship” established between the crime victim and police officer on the scene. If a police officer sees a crime in progress and has started to assist the victim, then if the police officer fails to assist or fails to request back up, the victim could bring a case against the City. There are many variations of these facts, and each slight variation can bring a different result.

Your specific case may be one the few types of cases which could find the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) responsible for the actions of the criminals that attacked you. Public Authorities Law § 1212(3) authorizes a private recovery against the NYCTA for the negligent operation of the subway system. You stated that a conductor was on the subway but did nothing to stop the attack on you (and other passengers). Although that conductor was not obligated to personally intervene (like a superhero in some Marvel comics movie), but if the subway employee witnessed the attack, but did not summon help, even though summoning that help would not put the conductor at risk, the MTA could be responsible for your damages.

The Good Samaritan Claim

I was injured during a fight involving multiple people. A policeman was getting beaten, so I stepped in to help him to prevent him from getting seriously injured. Can I make a claim for my injuries?

You not only have an assault claim against the people who hurt you, you may be also able to sue the City of New York for your damages as well. After filing a notice of claim (and possibly attending a municipal hearing and physical exam), you can file a lawsuit as a plaintiff in Supreme Court in New York for the damages you sustained. General Municipal Law § 71-a imposes absolute liability on the City for your injuries while aiding a police officer at the officer’s direction in making an arrest. For this type of claim there are two requirements: (1) the police office must lawfully command the injured plaintiff in securing the arrest and (2) the plaintiff’s injuries arose out of assisting the police officer.

From the description that you gave, it does not seem likely that you were given an explicit command from the police officer that was getting “beaten.” But, as long as the place officer indicated in some way that he needed assistance, then the City would be responsible for your damages.

Furthermore, “absolute liability” means the City would have no defense for this type of claim. The City would have to pay your damages. The only defense the City could mount would be to argue that the police officer never gave you a command to assist in the arrest of the person beating the police officer.

As a secondary point, there is no type of insurance that would cover the bad actors who inflicted your injuries. If you sue the people who assaulted you, you would have to collect any judgment against those people individually. You may not be able to collect any money.