San Francisco Not Liable For Crime

Last week a lawsuit filed by the Bologna family, the family whose father and two sons were fatally shot in 2008, against the city of San Francisco was thrown out. The presiding judge, Charlotte Woolard, ruled that the surviving members of the Bologna family can’t sue the city for allegedly harboring accused murderer Edwin Ramos from federal immigration authorities under federal immigration laws. In her ruling she stated: “In California and in their jurisdictions, it is well established that public entities generally are not liable for failing to protect individuals against crime.” Unlike injury cases where public entities and local jurisdiction can be held liable for injuries suffered at those locations, criminal cases do not follow the same rule. The lawsuit also claimed that that Ramos, an alleged illegal immigrant, had been previously arrested multiple times for violence and drug offenses, and the city failed to notify immigration enforcement. It is interesting to note that the Bologna family had also filed suit in federal court in 2008, and that that suit was also dismissed last year after a U.S. district judge reached the same conclusion. The crime and the criminal’s immigration status are two separate issues (issues that are too complex for the purposes of this blog), the former having no bearing on the latter.

Here at the Brod law firm, complex and tragic cases like this always leave us pondering the nature of justice, really. After all the lawsuits are filed, who is the last person to blame? Of course the person with the gun is the one responsible, but often the families of victims, such as this case shows, believe more than one person be held responsible–which is completely understandable– in the face of the facts. It is hard to fathom the depth of grief any family feels after such a monstrous crime. Obviously, the family in this case has to come to terms with the result of the lawsuit; but, more importantly, they must come to terms with the deaths of their family members. We have seen our own clients face similar challenges during wrongful death lawsuits. Clients sometimes alienate themselves behind a lawsuit, thereby making it harder to accept and deal with their loss. It is an arduous task coming to terms with death of a loved one; it requires a courageous act of allowing the full measure of grief to penetrate one’s faculties and then by adjusting one’s life accordingly. Let’s be clear, in no way do we claim to be experts on the subject of grieving. Consequently, we always recommend victims’ families to seek out the appropriate form of grief counseling.

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