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Santy v. Bresee

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 27, 1984.

DONNA SANTY, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF SCOTT R. SANTY, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

JOHN J. BRESEE, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF MOHAMMAD M. BALAZADEH, DECEASED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS (JOSEPH BROWN ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES). JOYCE OBERMILLER, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF CATHY S. SANTY, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

JOHN J. BRESEE, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF MOHAMMAD M. BALAZADEH, DECEASED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS (JOSEPH BROWN ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Creed D. Tucker, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is indeed a tragic case.

But the general rule is that law enforcement officials have no duty to protect individual citizens from crime — only such duty to the citizenry in general.

The trial court so held.

We affirm.

THE FACTS

Scott and Cathy Santy, a young married couple, were shot and killed at their apartment in Savoy, Champaign County — allegedly by Mohammad Balazadeh, a neighbor.

The administrators of the Santys' estates then sued the five defendants involved in these consolidated appeals — the Champaign County sheriff and a deputy, the Champaign County State's Attorney and an assistant, and the county itself — for not protecting the Santys from Balazadeh. According to the complaints, Balazadeh had repeatedly threatened and harassed the Santys that summer, and on August 5, 1980, two days before the shootings, the county sheriff had arrested Balazadeh on charges arising from the Santys' complaints. But the Santys were not notified of Balazadeh's later release from custody, although they had been promised a warning of that.

THE PLEADINGS

The complaints alleged that the Santys were the beneficiaries of a duty of protection that the defendants did not owe to the general public predicated on the following special circumstances: the Santys' requests for protection, the defendants' knowledge of Balazadeh's threats against the Santys, and the defendants' promises to warn the Santys of Balazadeh's release from custody.

The trial court dismissed these counts for failing to state causes of action, and the plaintiffs appeal. (Also named as defendants, but not involved in this appeal, are the administrator of Balazadeh's estate and the manager and the landlord of the apartment complex where the Santys and Balazadeh lived.)

Each of the defendants who is a party to this appeal was charged in five counts with negligence and recklessness; the latter was expressed as acting "in conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff's decedent." Recovery was sought from each defendant for the losses of the surviving minors (Scott Santy was survived by one child and Cathy Santy by two), for the decedents' pain and suffering, for funeral expenses, and for punitive damages. This five-count pattern was repeated against each defendant, and all 25 of these counts contained identical allegations regarding the duty to protect the Santys and the special circumstances from which it arose; the only difference from one defendant to another was found in the list of that particular defendant's acts and omissions.

Defendant Napper, the deputy sheriff who according to the complaints was responsible for booking Balazadeh when he was taken into custody on August 5, allegedly breached his duty in two ways: by failing to obtain from Balazadeh "the correct background and identifying information," and by failing to discover Balazadeh's history of violent crime, which was on file.

State's Attorney Difanis and his assistant, Bailie, allegedly breached their duties in four ways: by failing, like Napper, to discover Balazadeh's history of violent crime, which was on file, by failing to supply the circuit court with the correct information on Balazadeh's criminal history, by failing to adequately protect ...


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