Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun Fact #31

So, I thought I'd periodically share some of the fun (and not-so-fun) facts I've learned so far in law school - in random order. Given that exams are getting dreadfully closer by the second. I thought I'd start out with IRAC. I know, I know, you're thinking that Iraq is a war-torn country in the Middle East. But, no fun fact #31 is that IRAC is not a country. It is a writing style that requires you to take complete thoughts and break them down into splinters in a way that makes no sense to anyone but a law school professor: Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion.

For those of you who need an example I'd be glad to provide one.

Here is a plain English description of governmental immunity (sadly, based on a real case):

If the police ignore your mulitple pleas for help every time your psycho ex-boyfriend threatens to kill or maim you, it's OK. And don't bother trying to sue the police, when your ex finally follows through with his threats, especially if you live in New York.
You see, police are required to protect everyone, but have a duty to no one in particular. That's what Linda Riss found out after her ex-boyfriend hired someone to through lye in her face. She sued the police for ignoring her pleas for help. The New York court said, basically, too bad Linda, "there is no warrant ... to carve out an area of tort liability for police protections to members of the public."

Here is the IRAC version:

Is a police department liable to a citizen who suffered severe personal harm after repeatedly seeking help from the police to no avail?
Governmental public service agencies, such as a police departments are typically immune from liability for failing to protect individual citizens.
Governments may be liable under tort law for certain activities that provide services for public use, such as highways and public buildings. However, the Court of Appeals of New York, said in Riss v. City of New York that this isn't the case for police departments, which "protect the public generally from external hazards."
The court reasoned that because police have limited resources, they can't be expected to protect every single person, or else lawsuits could spiral out of control. The court also suggested that it would be up to the legislature to "carve out an area of tort liability."
Given this line of reasoning, it would seem that the police department owes no duty to Riss and the department is therefore not likely to be found liable for her injuries.

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