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Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Train Accident | No Comments

What Happened: Mrs. Palsgraf was standing on a railroad platform after she bought a ticket
from Long Island Rail Road. Two men ran to catch a train that was pulling out from the
platform. The first man jumped aboard easily but the second man, who was carrying a package,
failed to jump aboard the railroad car the first time. A train employee, who had held the door
open for the second man reached forward to help him in, and a guard on the platform pushed him
from behind at the same time. In this act, the package the man was carrying was dislodged and
fell upon the rails. The package contained fireworks, but there was nothing from its appearance
to give Long Island Rail Road notice of its contents. The fireworks exploded when they fell and
the shock of the explosion caused some scales at the other end of the platform to fall.
Unfortunately, the scales struck Mrs. Palsgraf, causing her to be injured. Ms. Palsgraf initiated a
lawsuit against Long Island Rail Road company to receive compensation for her injuries. Ms.
Palsgraf was awarded damages in the trial court and the Defendant appealed.

Question Before the Court: Does a Defendant owe a duty of care to Plaintiff who is outside the
reasonably foreseeable zone of danger?

Court Ruling: The majority held that negligence is based on the foreseeability of the harm
between the parties and overturned Ms. Palsgraf’s victory in the lower court.

Martin v. Herzog

By | Car Accidents, Cases, For Attorneys, Wrongful Death | No Comments

What Happened: Martin was driving his buggy during the night and was killed in a collision between his buggy and Herzog’s car. It was dark when the accident occurred. Martin was driving without lights and Herzog did not keep to the right of the center of the highway. Martin alleged that Herzog was driving on the wrong side of the road. Herzog claimed that Martin was contributorily negligent for driving without headlights as required under the law.

Question Before the Court: Does a jury have the power to relax the duty that one traveler on the highway owes under a statute to another on the same highway? Is negligent conduct actionable by itself unless there is a showing that such conduct was the cause of the injuries incurred?

Court Ruling: The unexcused violation of a statutory duty is negligence per se and a jury does not have the power to relax the duty that one traveler on the highway owes under a statute to another on the same highway. Negligent conduct is not actionable by itself unless there is a showing that such conduct was the cause of the injuries incurred.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell

By | Car Accidents, Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Spine and Back Injuries, Wrongful Death | No Comments

What Happened: In 1981, Campbell caused an accident in which Todd Ospital was killed and Robert G. Slusher was left permanently disabled, a fact confirmed by both witnesses to the accident and investigators. Notwithstanding the evidence against Campbell, Campbell’s insurance State Farm decided to contest liability and decline the settlement offers from both Slusher and Ospital’s estate. Both parties were offering to settle for $25,000 each, or $50,000 total, which was Campbell’s policy limit. State Farm assured the Campbells that “their assets were safe, that they had no liability for the accident, and that State Farm would represent their interests, and that they did not need to procure separate counsel. However, a jury rendered a verdict that Campbell was 100 percent liable for the accident and awarded a judgment of $185,849. State Farm refused to pay the excess amount, nor would it post a supersedeas bond to allow Campbell to appeal the verdict; Campbell obtained his own counsel to appeal the verdict. While the appeal was pending, the Campbells reached a settlement with Slusher and Ospital’s estate, whereby those parties agreed not to seek satisfaction of the judgment against the Campbells, and the Campbells would pursue a bad-faith action against State Farm. The attorneys for Slusher and Ospital’s estate would represent the Campbells in the bad-faith suit and would make all major decisions regarding it. No settlement would take effect without the approval of Slusher and Ospital’s estate, and they would receive 90 percent of any verdict against State Farm.The Utah Supreme Court denied Campbell’s appeal concerning the underlying car accident and State Farm then paid the entire amount of the judgment including the excess amount.

Nevertheless, the Campbells filed suit against State Farm alleging bad faith, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Campbells won a $145 million verdict against State Farm for their bad faith actions in not protecting their insureds, Resulting in over $116 million dollars to the Estates of Ospital and Slusher and $29 million to the Campbells.

Question Before the Court: There were two questions before the court; (1) was Campbell liable for the original car accident, and (2) did State Farm act in bad faith by not paying the verdict against the Campbells or settling the case for a reasonable amount?

Court Ruling: Campbell was liable in the underlying accident and State Farm acted in bad faith by not paying the original verdict, not settling the case for a reasonable amount, and not paying for the supersedeas bond; essentially, State Farm violated their duty owed to their insureds the Campbells.

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Tort Reform | No Comments

What Happened: Stella Liebeck ordered a cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s restaurant. With the car parked and Liebeck in the passenger seat Liebeck attempted to add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants that absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds, reducing her to 83 pounds. After the hospital stay, Liebeck needed care for 3 weeks, which was provided by her daughter. Liebeck suffered permanent disfigurement after the incident and was partially disabled for two years.

Question Before the Court: Did McDonald’s breach the standard of care by serving its coffee too hot?

Court Ruling: A twelve-person jury reached a verdict applying the principles of comparative negligence. The jury found that McDonald’s was 80% responsible for the incident and Liebeck was 20% at fault. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. In addition, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The jurors apparently arrived at this figure from Morgan’s suggestion to penalize McDonald’s for one or two days’ worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000, three times the compensatory amount, for a total of $640,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald’s and Liebeck in December 1994, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000.

United States v. Carroll Towing Co.

By | Articles, Cases, For Attorneys | No Comments

What Happened: The case was the result of the sinking of the barge Anna C that took place on January 4, 1944 in New York Harbor. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company chartered the Anna C from Conners Marine Company, which was loaded with flour owned by the United States. Before the accident, the Anna C was moored at Pier 52 on the North River along with several other barges. The barges at Pier 52 were tied together by mooring lines and one barge at Pier 52 was tied to another set of barges at the adjacent Public Pier. On the day of the accident the tug Carroll was sent to remove a barge from the Public Pier. In the process of removing the barge, the line between the barges at Pier 52 and the barges at the Public Pier was removed. After the removal of the line, the barges at Pier 52 broke free. This resulted in the sinking of Anna C. The United States, lessee of the Anna C, sued Carroll Towing Co., owner of the Carroll in an indemnity action.

Question Before the Court: Was Defendant negligent in failing to have a Bargee aboard the ship to prevent against such injury?

Court Ruling: If the burden of the preventative the injury is less than the Cost of Injury multiplied by the likelihood of the injury occurring and the injury occurs then the standard of care required would be breached.

Garratt v. Dailey

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Spine and Back Injuries | No Comments

What Happened: Garrat alleged that Dailey, a five year-old boy, moved a chair away just as she was about to sit down in it, causing her to fall and to be injured.

Question Before the Court: Intent necessary to establish Battery.

Court Ruling: The Court held that battery could only be found if it is shown that the boy knew with “substantial certainty” that by moving the chair Garratt would attempt to sit in the chair’s original position. That is, the accused must be substantially certain that his action would cause the offensive contact. The absence of an intent to injure or play a joke is not sufficient to absolve the accused of liability. It is sufficient for the plaintiff only to prove that the accused had sufficient knowledge to foresee the contact with “substantial certainty”.

Summers v. Tice

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury | No Comments

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.