Riss v. New York

22 N.Y.2d 579, 293 N.Y.S.2d 897, 240 N.E.2d 860 (1968)

 

RULE:

There is no warrant in judicial tradition or in the proper allocation of the powers of government for the courts, in the absence of legislation, to carve out an area of tort liability for police protection to members of the public. Quite distinguishable, of course, is the situation where the police authorities undertake responsibilities to particular members of the public and expose them, without adequate protection, to the risks which then materialize into actual losses.

FACTS:

A rejected suitor terrorized appellant by threatening to have appellant killed or maimed if she did not date him. In fear for her life, appellant went to respondent city's police for protection, which was refused. After appellant became engaged to another man, the rejected suitor hired someone to throw lye in appellant's face. Consequently, appellant was blind in one eye, lost a portion of her vision in the other eye, and her face was permanently scarred. Appellant sued respondent for its failure to protect her from harm. The lower court dismissed appellant's complaint. The appellate division affirmed. 

ISSUE:

Is the municipality liable for failure to provide special protection to a member of the public who was repeatedly threatened with personal harm and eventually suffered serious personal injuries for lack of such protection?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

It is notable that the removal of sovereign immunity for tort liability was accomplished after legislative enactment and not by any judicial arrogation of power. It is equally notable that for many years, since as far back as 1909 in this State, there was by statute municipal liability for losses sustained as a result of riot. Yet even this class of liability has for some years been suspended by legislative action, a factor of considerable significance.

Furthermore, there is no warrant in judicial tradition or in the proper allocation of the powers of government for the courts, in the absence of legislation, to carve out an area of tort liability for police protection to members of the public. Quite distinguishable, of course, is the situation where the police authorities undertake responsibilities to particular members of the public and expose them, without adequate protection, to the risks which then materialize into actual losses 

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.