What Happened: Ernest Simonson, and Harold W. Tice (Defendants) were hunting in the same area and at the same time, both negligently fired their guns at a quail, and in the direction of Mr. Summers. Mr. Summers was struck in the eye and lip by shots from one or both of Defendants’ guns. There was no way to determine whether the shots were from the gun of one defendant or the other or one shot from each of them. The shot that entered Plaintiff’s eye did the most damage, and that shot could not have come from both of the Defendants. However, the trial court held that both Defendants were liable. Defendants appealed on the grounds that they were not joint tortfeasors, they were not acting in concert and there was insufficient evidence to show which of them was negligent.
Question Before the Court: Are both Defendants liable for shooting Mr. Summers when it cannot be determined which gun or guns fired the shots that injured him?
Court Ruling: When there is negligence by multiple parties, and one party can only have caused the plaintiff’s injury, then it is up to the negligent parties to absolve themselves if they can. If two defendants cause damage that either one would be liable for, then both defendants will be held liable if it cannot be easily determined which defendant was the cause in fact of the injury.