Saturday, January 26, 2013

Linda Riss, of Riss v. New York fame, died this week at the age of 75

As you may remember from your days as a first semester Torts student, the famous case Riss v New York tells the story of how Burton Pugach hired some men to attack his ex-girlfriend Linda Riss.  Riss sued the City of New York because the police did not provide her protection after she repeatedly complained that Pugach was stalking her.  The decision of the court established the notion that because the state has a duty to everyone, it does not have a duty to anyone in particular.

But, as you may also remember, the story did not end there.  Pugach went to jail for 14 years and, strangely, Riss agreed to marry him upon his release. The real life story of the main characters is the subject of a book called A Very Different Love Story and a documentary called Crazy Love.  (See the trailer below).

In 1997, Pugach again went on trial on charges that he had sexually abused and threatened to kill a woman with whom he had been having an affair.  Ms. Riss testified on his behalf, telling him in open court, “You’re a wonderful, caring husband.” 

This week, the New York Times reported that Ms. Riss passed away.  The New York Times article is available here.  Go here for a couple of comments by my students who saw the video a few years ago.

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