New York Public Entity Immunity from Liability for Governmental Actions

In New York, the general rule that public entities are immune from liability for governmental actions has been modified by the waiver of sovereign immunity found in Court of Claims Act 8, whereby "the State assumed liability for its conduct and consented to have such liability determined in accordance with the same rules of law applicable to individuals and corporations" (Florence v. Goldberg, 44 NY2d 189, 194-195, 375 N.E.2d 763, 404 N.Y.S.2d 583 [1978]). Accordingly, liability may be found against the state through "the actions of its officers and employees in the everyday operations of government" (Arteaga v. State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 216, 527 N.E.2d 1194, 532 N.Y.S.2d 57 [1988]). However, "governmental entities somewhat incongruously claim -- and unquestionably continue to enjoy -- a significant measure of immunity fashioned for their protection by the courts" (Haddock v. City of New York, 75 NY2d 478, 484, 553 N.E.2d 987, 554 N.Y.S.2d 439 [1990]), as the State has retained its immunity for those governmental actions "requiring expert judgment or the exercise of discretion" (Arteaga v. State of New York, supra at 216). For example, actions found to be discretionary include decision-making by State Police to reroute traffic at an accident scene (see Town of Lansing v. State of New York, 18 AD3d 1093, 796 N.Y.S.2d 187 [2005]), or by county officials to post a deer crossing sign (see Niles v. County of Chautauqua, 302 AD2d 1001, 755 N.Y.S.2d 157 [2003], appeal dismissed 100 NY2d 535, 793 N.E.2d 413, 762 N.Y.S.2d 876 [2003]), or by a municipality in the field of highway safety planning (see James v. New York State Bridge Authority, 295 AD2d 316, 743 N.Y.S.2d 151 [2002]).