Florence v. Goldberg
44 N.Y.2d 189, 202 N.Y.S.2d 583, 375 N.E.2d 763 (1978)

  • Florence walked her child to school. For several weeks she noticed that the city police had a guard at a street crossing. She stopped walking the child, figuring the guard would watch out for the kid.
  • Soon after, the crossing guard called in sick. Departmental regulations required sending a substitute if possible, but no substitute could be found and no one was notified.
  • The child crossed the street alone and was hit by a car. Florence sued the city and the driver of the car.
  • The Trial Court found the city guilty of negligence. The city appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the city could not be held liable for failure to furnish adequate police protection…in general.
    • However, the city had voluntarily assumed a special duty intended to benefit a special class of persons (schoolchildren). This constituted more than the general duty to provide police protection to the public at large.
    • The Court found that the city, having assumed a duty to a special class of persons, and having gone forward with performance of that duty in the past had an obligation to continue its performance.
      • Since Florence would not have allowed her child to walk to school if she hadn’t seen the crossing guard day after day, the city put the child at greater risk than if they had never provided a crossing guard at all.
        • In other words, Florence had detrimentally relied on an illusory promise of protection.