Thanks for your clarification. Based on your advice, I am confident
that the case you are interested in is "Linda Riss v. City of New
York, Court of Appeals of New York, 22 N.Y.2d 579, 293 N.Y.S.2d 897,
240 N.E.2d 860 (1968)." As you may know, the highest court in New
York is called the "Court of Appeals," not the "Supreme Court." The
latter, confusingly enough, is the name given to the lower, trial
courts in the state.
If, after reviewing the information I have for you, you decide that
this is not the case you remember, please ask for clarification
without rating the answer, and I would be happy to continue the
Here is a link to the text of the majority and dissenting opinions in
the Riss case:
Healy Law Offices: Riss v. City of New York
I am sure you will want to read the entire decision (which is fairly brief), but
here for your immediate reference is some of the language that seems
particularly relevant to your question:
Summary of the facts:
"Linda Riss, an attractive young woman, was for more than six months
terrorized by a rejected suitor well known to the courts of this
State, one Burton Pugach. This miscreant, masquerading as a
respectable attorney, repeatedly threatened to have Linda killed or
maimed if she did not yield to him: 'If I can't have you, no one else
will have you, and when I get through with you, no one else will want
you'. In fear for her life, she went to those charged by law with the
duty of preserving and safeguarding the lives of the citizens and
residents of this State. Linda's repeated and almost pathetic pleas
for aid were received with little more than indifference. Whatever
help she was given was not commensurate with the identifiable danger.
On June 14, 1959 Linda became engaged to another man. At a party held
to celebrate the event, she received a phone call warning her that it
was her 'last chance'. Completely distraught, she called the police,
begging for help, but was refused. The next day Pugach carried out his
dire threats in the very manner he had foretold by having a hired thug
throw lye in Linda's face. Linda was blinded in one eye, lost a good
portion of her vision in the other, and her face was permanently
scarred. After the assault the authorities concluded that there was
some basis for Linda's fears, and for the next three and one-half
years, she was given around-the-clock protection."
The Court's holding and its essential reasoning:
"The amount of protection that may be provided is limited by the
resources of the community and by a considered legislative-executive
decision as to how those resources may be deployed. 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 of the community should be allocated and without
predictable limits. . . . .
"Before such extension of responsibilities should be dictated by the
indirect imposition of tort liabilities, there should be a legislative
determination that should be the scope of public responsibility. . .
"When one considers the greatly increased amount of crime committed
throughout the cities, but especially in certain portions of them,
with a repetitive and predictable pattern, it is easy to see the
consequences of fixing municipal liability upon a showing of probable
need for and request for protection. . . .
"[T]here 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."
Judge Keating wrote a vigorous dissent to the decision, which directly
follows the majority opinion at the website linked above, and which I
commend to your attention.
The Riss case is regularly cited by organizations that oppose gun
control legislation as undermining a constitutional right to
self-defense. Here's a link to two examples:
Stentorian.com: "A Strategy for Defeating Gun Control in the United
States" (Riss case reference about 2/3 down the page)
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership: Dial 911 and Die!
(Riss reference almost halfway down the page)
It is also cited in law school tort courses as a leading case in the area:
UC Berkeley Law School: Course Outline: Torts (about halfway down the page)
I used various Google searches to narrow down the likely possibilities
for your answer to this one case. Here are two useful examples, among
" v city of new york" 911
"riss v city"
I then used other searches to fill out the information, such as:
"riss v city" "gun control"
As noted above, I am reasonably confident that this is the case you
are looking for. It matches your outline of the facts and the law of
the case you remember, and it is a very often cited as the preeminent
New York case in the area in law school tort course syllabuses and
I am happy to be able to provide you with an answer promptly, If
anything is unclear, please ask for clarification before rating the