Bowers v. DeVito

In Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir.1982), the plaintiff's estate brought a Sec. 1983 action against various physicians and public employees claiming that the defendants knew that a mental patient was dangerous when they released him, and that they acted recklessly in doing so. The mental patient murdered the plaintiff one year after the defendants released him. Despite the court's recognition of a state's duty in certain circumstances, it held that the defendants in the case owed no duty to the plaintiff because they did not place her in a position of danger nor were they aware that she faced a special danger distinguishable from that of the general public. Id. Although the court stated that "there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen," it also recognized that "if the state puts a man in a position of danger and then fails to protect him, it will not be heard to say that its role was merely passive; it is as much an active tortfeasor as if it had thrown him into a snake pit." Id.