Municipal Corporations – Tort Liability – Duty to Protect Informers

Decedent Schuster supplied information to the police which led to the arrest of the notorious Willie “The Actor” Sutton. After decedent’s part in the arrest was widely publicized he received threats against his life. He demanded police protection, which was denied on a belief that the threats were not seriously made. Three weeks later the decedent was shot and killed by an unknown assailant. Plaintiff, administrator of decedent’s estate, sued the defendant city to recover damages for wrongful death. The supreme court dismissed the complaint, and the appellate division affirmed. On appeal, held, reversed, three judges dissenting. The complaint stated a cause of action based on negligence, as the city owes a special duty to use reasonable care to protect persons collaborating with it in the arrest of criminals, at least where protection is demanded. Schuster v. City of New York, (N.Y. 1958) 154 N.E. (2d) 534.