Evon v. Andrews
In Evon v. Andrews, 211 Conn. 501, 559 A.2d 1131 (1989), the plaintiffs' decedents were killed by a fire in the apartment building in which they resided. The plaintiffs brought an action against the municipality and its agents for failing to enforce various statutes, regulations and codes governing the maintenance of rental dwellings. Id.
The trial court granted the defendants' motion to strike the complaint and rendered judgment in favor of the defendants. Id. at 502-504.
Affirming the judgment, the Supreme Court addressed the applicability of the identifiable person- imminent harm exception, stating:
"The gravamen of the plaintiffs' allegations is that the defendants had not done enough to prevent the occurrence of a fire. The risk of fire implicates a wide range of factors that can occur, if at all, at some unspecified time in the future. . . . The plaintiffs' decedents were not subject to 'imminent harm.' This is clearly not the situation in which a police officer stood by and watched a public brawl that resulted in a person being shot. See Sestito v. Groton, supra 178 Conn. at 523. The present allegations do not even rise to the level of the imminence we rejected in Shore v. Stonington, supra 187 Conn. 147, in which a police officer permitted a drunk driver to continue on his way, resulting in the death of the plaintiff's decedent. In the present instance, the fire could have occurred at any future time or not at all. We cannot accept the proposition that the plaintiffs' decedents in this case were readily identifiable victims subject to imminent harm." Evon v. Andrews, supra, 507-508.The trial court granted the motion of the defendant city and various of its officials to strike the count of the complaint alleging that they had been negligent in failing to take remedial action against the property's owners to enforce various statutes, regulations and codes concerning the maintenance of the dwellings. Id. at 503-504.
Specifically, they had alleged in their complaint that the city and its officers had been negligent in failing to make reasonable and proper inspections of the premises. Id. at 506.
The Court explained that "what constitutes a reasonable, proper or adequate inspection involves the exercise of judgment. . . . It is axiomatic that ministerial acts are those that are performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment. . . . Since the acts alleged . . . required in some measure the exercise of judgment by a municipal employee . . . they were not ministerial and therefore the defendants were immune from liability." Id. at 506-507.
In concluding that the allegations of the complaint did not rise to the level of imminence so as to come within the exception, the court stated that the imminent harm exception for discretionary acts did not apply under those facts because "the risk of fire implicates a wide range of factors that can occur, if at all, at some unspecified time in the future. . . . In the present instance, the fire could have occurred at any future time or not at all." Id., 508.