5 City L. 20

January/February, 1999

Current Development: Tort
Governmental Immunity


Copyright (c) 1999 by the Center for New York City Law

In 1991 CCNY students used the Nat Holman Gymnasium for a charity basketball game, featuring rap artists Puff Daddy and Heavy D. On the night of the concert, the gym was over-capacity, a wave of people pushed to enter, and eventually a stampede erupted that killed nine people and injured another 29. The student who applied for permission to use the gym *21 had estimated that 500 might attend. CCNY planned its security needs on the 500 estimate, with no follow-up inquiries. Against its internal rules, CCNY did not take charge of ticket sales or monitor the audience demand, and did not know that the event was considerably oversold. When CCNY officials eventually learned of the high demand and ticket sales, they did not reassess security requirements.
As the evening’s events unfolded, the rappers’ personal security detail took over, focused exclusively on excluding non-ticketholders, failed to exercise crowd control or safety precautions, and sealed the doors that ultimately caused the fleeing concert-goers to be crushed. After a trial, Court of Claims Judge Louis C. Benza ruled that CCNY was not protected by governmental immunity. The court found CCNY fifty percent liable since it only had five security guards on site and negligently failed to follow its own procedures on crowd estimates, ticket sales, and entrance procedures. Although the court only hears claims against the State, Judge Benza ruled that Puff Daddy & Heavy D’s security was also fifty percent at fault.
Childs v. City University of New York, N.Y.L.J., Jan. 21, 1999, at 30 (Ct. of Claims)(Benza, J.)(Attorneys: Peter DeFilippis, Joel Savit, for plaintiffs; Dennis Vacco, Michael Rosas, for NYS).
CITYLAW Comment: The City may also be liable if it can be proved that NYPD actions the night of the stamped demonstrated affirmative negligence. City Law, Vol. 4, at 45 (1998).

End of Document© 2019 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

5 City L. 20, 20-21