Duty to Prevent Assault? … Not In Adult Care Facility (NY)

In Malave v Lakeside Manor Homes for Adults, Inc., the Second Department affirmed summary judgment to the adult care facility defendant, Lakeside, finding it owed no duty of care to its residents for personal injuries caused by another resident.  The court reasoned that the facility had no authority or ability to control the conduct of a third person.

In Malave, the plaintiff was stabbed by another resident during an argument in Lakeside’s lobby.  Plaintiff commenced suit against Lakeside and the resident who stabbed him.  Plaintiff alleged that Lakeside was liable because, among other reasons, it had a duty to protect him from the assaults of other residents.

Lakeside presented evidence that it was an adult care facility.  An adult care facility is defined as a “family-type home for adults, a shelter for adults, a residence for adults or an adult home, which provides temporary or long-term residential care and services to adults who, though not requiring continual medical or nursing care […], are, by reason of physical or other limitations associated with age, physical or mental disabilities or other factors, unable or substantially unable to live independently.”

Lakeside also presented evidence that, as an adult care facility, its residents were free to come and go as they pleased, and that in order to remove a resident from the facility, it would need to commence an eviction proceeding.  Lakeside did not require the issuance of day passes, which would have been indicative of a certain level of authority and control over its residents, who did not relinquish general autonomy.

Courts have imposed a duty of care where a party has sufficient authority and ability to control the conduct of third persons. However, it distinguished the adult care environment since such a facility does not fit into this category.  In this respect, an adult care facility has a much more limited ability than, for example, mental institutions.

Special thanks to Johan Obregon for his contribution.

For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.