Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation Allowing Victims of Domestic Violence To Fully Recover Pain & Suffering Damages Against Municipalities For Negligently Failing To Enforce Orders of Protection
On August 26, 2019, New York Governor Cuomo signed a new law that will allow victims of domestic violence to obtain money damages against either or both those: 1) who violate an Order of Protection; AND, 2) those who negligently fail to enforce that Order. What this law does is prevent municipalities from asserting limitations on their liability. Previously, if a prosecutor or police official in New York was found responsible by a jury for negligently failing to enforce an Order of Protection, which resulted in injuries to the victim, a jury would assign a percentage of blame to the criminal perpetrator and separately allocate a percentage of liability to the municipality. Under the old law of limited liability for pain and suffering awards, unless the municipality was found 51% or more responsible (which required them to pay the total amount awarded), the municipality would only have to pay their assigned percentage share of the amount awarded to the victim.
In suits filed against municipalities under these circumstances, the jury compares the misconduct of the violent criminal with the negligence of a municipality and decides how to apportion 100% of the damages between the two: whether 90% - 10%, 50%-50% or, any combination adding up to 100%. A jury may allocate far greater responsibility to the perpetrator (who usually has no assets and no insurance coverage for an intentional act) than to the municipality. In that event, a municipality found only 10% responsible would only have to pay 10% of the verdict leaving the victim - victimized once again. Under this new law, even if found only 1% responsible, the negligent municipality who failed to properly enforce an Order of Protection, will have to be 100% of any award made to a victim of domestic violence. This new law re-establishes joint and several liability for municipalities for negligently failing to enforce Orders of Protection, which will take effect on October 26, 2019-see See, CPLR Section 1602 (14).