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Riss v. New York

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Torts Keyed to Dobbs

Citation. Riss v. New York, 22 N.Y.2d 579 (N.Y. 1968)

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.

Facts. Plaintiff was continuously terrorized by an attorney, Burton Pugach (Pugach), who was in love with her. Pugach repeatedly threatened to kill or maim plaintiff. Plaintiff informed the police, but received little or no help. After Plaintiff became engaged to another man, she received a phone call telling her it was her last chance. Plaintiff again contacted police, but was again refused help. The next day a criminal hired by Pugach threw lye in Plaintiff’s face, blinding her in one eye and permanently scarring her face. After the assault, Plaintiff received constant police protection for the next three and one half years. Plaintiff sued the Defendant, New York (Defendant), as a municipality for faailure to provide her with special protection due to her circumstances. A divided Appellate Division dismissed the complaint.

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?

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