Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Linda Riss (Plaintiff), was continuously harassed by a jilted lover, who eventually paid someone to throw lye in Plaintiff’s face, seriously injuring her. Plaintiff asked for protection from the police on multiple occasions, but received little or no help.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Police authorities are not liable for failing to provide special protection to individuals threatened with harm.
For the courts to proclaim a new and general duty of protection in the law of tort, even to those who may be the particular seekers of protection based on specific hazards, could and would inevitably determine how the limited police resources should be allocated and without predictable limits.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was the Appellate Division correct in determining that a municipality is not liable for failure to provide special protection when an individual is threatened with physical harm, and the individual does eventually suffer harm due to the lack of protection?
Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
* To allow Plaintiff’s cause of action based on these facts would require this court to create a new and general duty of protection in the law of tort. This would have the effect of determining how limited police resources should be allocated without predictable limits. If any tort liabilities are imposed in this area, it should be the decision of the legislature.
Dissent. Judge Keating state that the city’s argument is that since we owe a duty to everybody, we owe it to no one. The justification for not allowing a cause of action in this case is that it would expose the state and municipality to limitless liability. There is no empirical support for this claim. Indirectly, courts review administrative practices in almost every tort case against the State or a municipality and can do the same in the present case.
Discussion. Unlike the present case, if police authorities undertake responsibilities to specific individuals and expose them to risks without adequate protection, tort actions are allowed.