ANN SWANSON, ADMINISTRATRIX (ESTATE OF GROVER BRESSERT, SR.) et al. v. CITY OF GROTON et al., AC 29331

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Governmental Immunity; Whether Police Officer's Action in Failing to Detain an Intoxicated Person Pursuant to General Statutes 17a-683 (b) was Discretionary; Whether Action Falls Within Identifiable Victim Exception to Doctrine of Governmental Immunity; Whether Loss of Parental Consortium Claim Should be Recognized. Grover Bressert, Sr., was the manager of a rooming house in the city of Groton. On June 22, 2002, Bressert told one of his tenants, Marcelino Lasalle, that he was going to be evicted because of his harassing and threatening behavior while intoxicated. Later that same day, a Groton police officer responded to a 911 call from the manager of a local laundromat who reported that a very intoxicated man, who turned out to be Lasalle, was outside of the laundromat. The officer had a brief conversation with Lasalle and allowed him to leave. Lasalle then walked to the rooming house, where he fatally wounded Bressert. The plaintiff brought this action against the officer, alleging that he was negligent in several ways, including failing to take Lasalle into protective custody. The plaintiff alleged similar claims of negligence against the city of Groton and additionally alleged that the city failed to properly train and supervise its police officers. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the negligence claims are barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity. The plaintiff argued that the doctrine did not bar the negligence claims because the officer's duty was ministerial rather than discretionary, as General Statutes 17a-683 (b) requires a police officer to take a person incapacitated by alcohol into protective custody. The plaintiff further argued that even if the duty were discretionary, the exception to the governmental immunity doctrine for circumstances where the public officer's failure to act would likely subject an identifiable person to imminent harm applies. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that (1) there was no authority for the proposition that a police officer has no discretion as to whether to arrest or take other action, even when the operative statute includes mandatory or directory language; and (2) there was nothing to indicate that Bressert was an identifiable victim or that harm of the general nature that actually occurred, that is, murder or serious assault, was likely to happen. The court also granted summary judgment in the defendants' favor on a claim brought by the plaintiff on behalf of Bressert's minor children for loss of parental consortium, finding that Connecticut does not recognize such a cause of action. The plaintiff challenges the judgment in this appeal before the Appellate Court.