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University of Mary Palsgraf V Long Island R Co Case Brief Report

University of Mary Palsgraf V Long Island R Co Case Brief Report

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https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.cornell.edu/dist/5/5699/files/2015/07/11-Palsgraf-v-LI-RR-qif42o.pdf Court of Appeals of New York.PALSGRAFv.LONG ISLAND R. CO.May 29, 1928.CARDOZO, C. J.Plaintiff was standing on a platform of defendant’s railroad af ter buying a ticket to go to Rockaway Beach. A train stopped at thestation, bound for another place. Two men ran forward to catch it.One of the men reached the platform of the car without mishap,though the train was already moving. The other man, carrying apackage, jumped aboard the car, but seemed unsteady as if about tofall. A guard on the car, who had held the door open, reached for ward to help him in, and another guard on the platform pushedhim from behind. In this act, the package was dislodged, and fellupon the rails. It was a package of small size, about fifteen incheslong, and was covered by a newspaper. In fact it contained fire works, but there was nothing in its appearance to give notice of itscontents. The fireworks when they fell exploded. The shock of theexplosion threw down some scales at the other end of the platformmany feet away. The scales struck the plaintiff, causing injuries forwhich she sues.The conduct of the defendant’s guard, if a wrong in its relationto the holder of the package, was not a wrong in its relation to theplaintiff, standing far away. Relatively to her it was not negligenceat all. Nothing in the situation gave notice that the falling packagehad in it the potency of peril to persons thus removed. Negligenceis not actionable unless it involves the invasion of a legally pro tected interest, the violation of a right. ‘Proof of negligence in theair, so to speak, will not do.’ The plaintiff, as she stood upon theplatform of the station, might claim to be protected against inten tional invasion of her bodily security. Such invasion is notcharged. She might claim to be protected against unintentionalinvasion by conduct involving in the thought of reasonable men anunreasonable hazard that such invasion would ensue. These, fromthe point of view of the law, were the bounds of her immunity,with perhaps some rare exceptions, survivals for the most part ofancient forms of liability, where conduct is held to be at the peril ofthe actor. If no hazard was apparent to the eye of ordinary vigi lance, an act innocent and harmless, at least to outward seeming,with reference to her, did not take to itself the quality of a tort be cause it happened to be a wrong, though apparently not one involv ing the risk of bodily insecurity, with reference to some one else.‘In every instance, before negligence can be predicated of a givenact, back of the act must be sought and found a duty to the individ ual complaining, the observance of which would have averted oravoided the injury.’A different conclusion will involve us, and swiftly too, in amaze of contradictions. A guard stumbles over a package whichhas been left upon a platform. It seems to be a bundle of newspa pers. It turns out to be a can of dynamite. To the eye of ordinaryvigilance, the bundle is abandoned waste, which may be kicked ortrod on with impunity. Is a passenger at the other end of the plat form protected by the law against the unsuspected hazard con cealed beneath the waste? If not, is the result to be any different, sofar as the distant passenger is concerned, when the guard stumblesover a valise which a truckman or a porter has left upon the walk?The passenger far away, if the victim of a wrong at all, has a causeof action, not derivative, but original and primary. His claim to beprotected against invasion of his bodily security is neither greaternor less because the act resulting in the invasion is a wrong to an other far removed. In this case, the rights that are said to have beenviolated, are not even of the same order. The man was not injuredin his person nor even put in danger. The purpose of the act, aswell as its effect, was to make his person safe. It there was a wrongto him at all, which may very well be doubted it was a wrong to aproperty interest only, the safety of his package. Out of this wrongto property, which threatened injury to nothing else, there has 2passed, we are told, to the plaintiff by derivation or succession aright of action for the invasion of an interest of another order, theright to bodily security. The diversity of interests emphasizes thefutility of the effort to build the plaintiff’s right upon the basis of awrong to some one else. The gain is one of emphasis, for a like re sult would follow if the interests were the same. Even then, the or bit of the danger as disclosed to the eye of reasonable vigilancewould be the orbit of the duty. One who jostles one’s neighbor in acrowd does not invade the rights of others standing at the outerfringe when the unintended contact casts a bomb upon the ground.The wrongdoer as to them is the man who carries the bomb, not theone who explodes it without suspicion of the danger. Life will haveto be made over, and human nature transformed, before previsionso extravagant can be accepted as the norm of conduct, the cus tomary standard to which behavior must conform.The argument for the plaintiff is built upon the shifting mean ings of such words as ‘wrong’ and ‘wrongful,’ and shares their in stability. What the plaintiff must show is ‘a wrong’ to herself; i. e.,a violation of her own right, and not merely a wrong to some oneelse, nor conduct ‘wrongful’ because unsocial, but not ‘a wrong’ toany one. We are told that one who drives at reckless speed througha crowded city street is guilty of a negligent act and therefore of awrongful one, irrespective of the consequences. Negligent the actis, and wrongful in the sense that it is unsocial, but wrongful andunsocial in relation to other travelers, only because the eye of vigi lance perceives the risk of damage. If the same act were to becommitted on a speedway or a race course, it would lose its wrong ful quality. The risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty tobe obeyed, and risk imports relation; it is risk to another or to oth ers within the range of apprehension. This does not mean, ofcourse, that one who launches a destructive force is always re lieved of liability, if the force, though known to be destructive,pursues an unexpected path. ‘It was not necessary that the defend ant should have had notice of the particular method in which anaccident would occur, if the possibility of an accident was clear tothe ordinarily prudent eye.’ Some acts, such as shooting are soimminently dangerous to any one who may come within reach ofthe missile however unexpectedly, as to impose a duty of previsionnot far from that of an insurer. Even to-day, and much oftener inearlier stages of the law, one acts sometimes at one’s peril. Underthis head, it may be, fall certain cases of what is known as trans ferred intent, an act willfully dangerous to A resulting by misad venture in injury to B. These cases aside, wrong is defined in termsof the natural or probable, at least when unintentional. The rangeof reasonable apprehension is at times a question for the court, andat times, if varying inferences are possible, a question for the jury.Here, by concession, there was nothing in the situation to suggestto the most cautious mind that the parcel wrapped in newspaperwould spread wreckage through the station. If the guard hadthrown it down knowingly and willfully, he would not have threat ened the plaintiff’s safety, so far as appearances could warn him.His conduct would not have involved, even then, an unreasonableprobability of invasion of her bodily security. Liability can be nogreater where the act is inadvertent.Negligence, like risk, is thus a term of relation. Negligence inthe abstract, apart from things related, is surely not a tort, if indeedit is understandable at all. Negligence is not a tort unless it resultsin the commission of a wrong, and the commission of a wrong im ports the violation of a right, in this case, we are told, the right tobe protected against interference with one’s bodily security. Butbodily security is protected, not against all forms of interference oraggression, but only against some. One who seeks redress at lawdoes not make out a cause of action by showing without more thatthere has been damage to his person. If the harm was not willful,he must show that the act as to him had possibilities of danger somany and apparent as to entitle him to be protected against the do ing of it though the harm was unintended. Affront to personality isstill the keynote of the wrong. …The law of causation, remote or proximate, is thus foreign to 3the case before us. The question of liability is always anterior tothe question of the measure of the consequences that go with liabil ity. If there is no tort to be redressed, there is no occasion to con sider what damage might be recovered if there were a finding of atort. We may assume, without deciding, that negligence, not atlarge or in the abstract, but in relation to the plaintiff, would entailliability for any and all consequences, however novel or extraordi nary. There is room for argument that a distinction is to be drawnaccording to the diversity of interests invaded by the act, as whereconduct negligent in that it threatens an insignificant invasion of aninterest in property results in an unforeseeable invasion of an inter est of another order, as, e. g., one of bodily security. Perhaps otherdistinctions may be necessary. We do not go into the question now.The consequences to be followed must first be rooted in a wrong.The judgment of the Appellate Division and that of the TrialTerm should be reversed, and the complaint dismissed, with costsin all courts.ANDREWS, J. (dissenting).Assisting a passenger to board a train, the defendant’s servantnegligently knocked a package from his arms. It fell between theplatform and the cars. Of its contents the servant knew and couldknow nothing. A violent explosion followed. The concussion brokesome scales standing a considerable distance away. In falling, theyinjured the plaintiff, an intending passenger.Upon these facts, may she recover the damages she has suf fered in an action brought against the master? The result we shallreach depends upon our theory as to the nature of negligence. Is ita relative concept-the breach of some duty owing to a particularperson or to particular persons? Or, where there is an act whichunreasonably threatens the safety of others, is the doer liable for allits proximate consequences, even where they result in injury to onewho would generally be thought to be outside the radius of danger?This is not a mere dispute as to words. We might not believe thatto the average mind the dropping of the bundle would seem to in volve the probability of harm to the plaintiff standing many feetaway whatever might be the case as to the owner or to one so nearas to be likely to be struck by its fall. If, however, we adopt the se cond hypothesis,*348 we have to inquire only as to the relationbetween cause and effect. We deal in terms of proximate cause, notof negligence.Negligence may be defined roughly as an act or omissionwhich unreasonably does or may affect the rights of others, orwhich unreasonably fails to protect one’s self from the dangers re sulting from such acts. Here I confine myself to the first branch ofthe definition. Nor do I comment on the word ‘unreasonable.’ Forpresent purposes it sufficiently describes that average of conductthat society requires of its members.There must be both the act or the omission, and the right. It isthe act itself, not the intent of the actor, that is important. In crimi nal law both the intent and the result are to be considered. Intentagain is material in tort actions, where punitive damages aresought, dependent on actual malice-not one merely reckless con duct. But here neither insanity nor infancy lessens responsibility.As has been said, except in cases of contributory negligence,there must be rights which are or may be affected. Often thoughinjury has occurred, no rights of him who suffers have beentouched. A licensee or trespasser upon my land has no claim toaffirmative care on my part that the land be made safe. Where arailroad is required to fence its tracks against cattle, no man’s rightsare injured should he wander upon the road because such fence isabsent. An unborn child may not demand immunity from personalharm.But we are told that ‘there is no negligence unless there is inthe particular case a legal duty to take care, and this duty must benot which is owed to the plaintiff himself and not merely to oth-4ers.’ This I think too narrow a conception. Where there is the un reasonable act, and some right that may be affected there is negli gence whether damage does or does not result. That is immateri al. Should we drive down Broadway at a reckless speed, we arenegligent whether we strike an approaching car or miss it by aninch. The act itself is wrongful. If is a wrong not only to thosewho happen to be within the radius of danger, but to all who mighthave been there-a wrong to the public at large. Such is the lan guage of the street. Such the language of the courts when speakingof contributory negligence. Such again and again their language inspeaking of the duty of some defendant and discussing proximatecause in cases where such a discussion is wholly irrelevant on anyother theory. As was said by Mr. Justice Holmes many years ago:‘The measure of the defendant’s duty in determining whether awrong has been committed is one thing, the measure of liabilitywhen a wrong has been committed is another.’ Spade v. Lynn &B. R. Co., 172 Mass. 488, 491, 52 N. E. 747, 748 ( 43 L. R. A.832, 70 Am. St. Rep. 298).Due care is a duty imposed on each one of us to protect societyfrom unnecessary danger, not to protect A, B, or C alone.It may well be that there is no such thing as negligence in theabstract. ‘Proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do.’In an empty world negligence would not exist. It does involve arelationship between man and his fellows, but not merely a rela tionship between man and those whom he might reasonably expecthis act would injure; rather, a relationship between him and thosewhom he does in fact injure. If his act has a tendency to harm someone, it harms him a mile away as surely as it does those on the sce ne. We now permit children to recover for the negligent killing ofthe father. It was never prevented on the theory that no duty wasowing to them. A husband may be compensated for the loss of hiswife’s services. To say that the wrongdoer was negligent as to thehusband as well as to the wife is merely an attempt to fit facts totheory. An insurance company paying a fire loss recovers its pay ment of the negligent incendiary. We speak of subrogation-of su ing in the right of the insured. Behind the cloud of words is the factthey hide, that the act, wrongful as to the insured, has also injuredthe company. Even if it be true that the fault of father, wife, or in sured will prevent recovery, it is because we consider the originalnegligence, not the proximate cause of the injury. Pollock, Torts(12th Ed.) 463.…The proposition is this: Every one owes to the world at largethe duty of refraining from those acts that may unreasonablythreaten the safety of others. Such an act occurs. Not only is hewronged to whom harm, might reasonably be expected to result,but he also who is in fact injured, even if he be outside what wouldgenerally be thought the danger zone. There needs be duty due theone complaining, but this is not a duty to a particular individualbecause as to him harm might be expected. Harm to some one be ing the natural result of the act, not only that one alone, but allthose in fact injured may complain. ….If this be so, we do not have a plaintiff suing by ‘derivation orsuccession.’ Her action is original and primary. Her claim is for abreach of duty to herself-not that she is subrogated to any right ofaction of the owner of the parcel or of a passenger standing at thescene of the explosion.The right to recover damages rests on additional considera tions. The plaintiff’s rights must be injured, and this injury must becaused by the negligence. We build a dam, but are negligent as toits foundations. Breaking, it injures property down stream. We arenot liable if all this happened because of some reason other thanthe insecure foundation. But, when injuries do result from out un lawful act, we are liable for the consequences. It does not matterthat they are unusual, unexpected, unforeseen, and unforeseeable.But there is one limitation. The damages must be so connected 5with the negligence that the latter may be said to be the proximatecause of the former.These two words have never been given an inclusive defini tion. What is a cause in a legal sense, still more what is a proxi mate cause, depend in each case upon many considerations, asdoes the existence of negligence itself. Any philosophical doctrineof causation does not help us. A boy throws a stone into a pond.The ripples spread. The water level rises. The history of that pondis altered to all eternity. It will be altered by other causes also. Yetit will be forever the resultant of all causes combined. Each onewill have an influence. How great only omniscience can say. Youmay speak of a chain, or, if you please, a net. An analogy is of lit tle aid. Each cause brings about future events. Without each thefuture would not be the same. Each is proximate in the sense it isessential. But that is not what we mean by the word. Nor on theother hand do we mean sole cause. There is no such thing.Should analogy be thought helpful, however, I prefer that of astream. The spring, starting on its journey, is joined by tributaryafter tributary. The river, reaching the ocean, comes from a hun dred sources. No man may say whence any drop of water is de rived. Yet for a time distinction may be possible. Into the clearcreek, brown swamp water flows from the left. Later, from theright comes water stained by its clay bed. The three may remainfor a space, sharply divided. But at last inevitably no trace of sepa ration remains. They are so commingled that all distinction is lost.As we have said, we cannot trace the effect of an act to theend, if end there is. Again, however, we may trace it part of theway. A murder at Serajevo may be the necessary antecedent to anassassination in London twenty years hence. An overturned lanternmay burn all Chicago. We may follow the fire from the shed to thelast building. We rightly say the fire started by the lantern causedits destruction.A cause, but not the proximate cause. What we do mean by theword ‘proximate’ is that, because of convenience, of public policy,of a rough sense of justice, the law arbitrarily declines to trace aseries of events beyond a certain point. This is not logic. It is prac tical politics. Take our rule as to fires. Sparks from my burninghaystack set on fire my house and my neighbor’s. I may recoverfrom a negligent railroad He may not. Yet the wrongful act as di rectly harmed the one as the other. We may regret that the line wasdrawn just where it was, but drawn somewhere it had to be. Wesaid the act of the railroad was not the proximate cause of ourneighbor’s fire. Cause it surely was. The words we used were simp ly indicative of our notions of public policy. Other courts think dif ferently. But somewhere they reach the point where they cannotsay the stream comes from any one source.Take the illustration given in an unpublished manuscript by adistinguished and helpful writer on the law of torts. A chauffeurnegligently collides with another car which is filled with dynamite,although he could not know it. An explosion follows. A, walkingon the sidewalk nearby, is killed. B, sitting in a window of a build ing opposite, is cut by flying glass. C, likewise sitting in a windowa block away, is similarly injured. And a further illustration: Anursemaid, ten blocks away, startled by the noise, involuntarilydrops a baby from her arms to the walk. We are told that C maynot recover while A may. As to B it is a question for court or jury.We will all agree that the baby might not. Because, we are againtold, the chauffeur had no reason to believe his conduct involvedany risk of injuring either C or the baby. As to them he was notnegligent.But the chauffeur, being negligent in risking the collision, hisbelief that the scope of the harm he might do would be limited isimmaterial. His act unreasonably jeopardized the safety of any onewho might be affected by it. C’s injury and that of the baby weredirectly traceable to the collision. Without that, the injury wouldnot have happened. C had the right to sit in his office, secure from 6such dangers. The baby was entitled to use the sidewalk with rea sonable safety.The true theory is, it seems to me, that the injury to C, if intruth he is to be denied recovery, and the injury to the baby, is thattheir several injuries were not the proximate result of the negli gence. And here not what the chauffeur had reason to believewould be the result of his conduct, but what the prudent wouldforesee, may have a bearing-may have some bearing, for the prob lem of proximate cause is not to be solved by any one considera tion. It is all a question of expediency. There are no fixed rules togovern our judgment. There are simply matters of which we maytake account. We have in a somewhat different connection spokenof ‘the stream of events.’ We have asked whether that stream wasdeflected-whether it was forced into new and unexpected channels.This is rather rhetoric than law. There is in truth little to guide usother than common sense.There are some hints that may help us. The proximate cause,involved as it may be with many other causes, must be, at the least,something without which the event would not happen. The courtmust ask itself whether there was a natural and continuous se quence between cause and effect. Was the one a substantial factorin producing the other? Was there a direct connection betweenthem, without too many intervening causes? Is the effect of causeon result not too attentuated? Is the cause likely, in the usualjudgment of mankind, to produce the result? Or, by the exercise ofprudent foresight, could the result be foreseen? Is the result tooremote from the cause, and here we consider remoteness in timeand space. ..Clearly we must so consider, for the greater the dis tance either in time or space, the more surely do other causes inter vene to affect the result. When a lantern is overturned, the firing ofa shed is a fairly direct consequence. Many things contribute to thespread of the conflagration-the force of the wind, the direction andwidth of streets, the character of intervening structures, other fac tors. We draw an uncertain and wavering line, but draw it we mustas best we can.Once again, it is all a question of fair judgment, always keep ing in mind the fact that we endeavor to make a rule in each casethat will be practical and in keeping with the general understandingof mankind.Here another question must be answered. In the case sup posed, it is said, and said correctly, that the chauffeur is liable forthe direct effect of the explosion, although he had no reason tosuppose it would follow a collision. ‘The fact that the injury oc curred in a different manner than that which might have been ex pected does not prevent the chauffeur’s negligence from being inlaw the cause of the injury.’ But the natural results of a negligentact-the results which a prudent man would or should foresee-dohave a bearing upon the decision as to proximate cause. We havesaid so repeatedly. What should be foreseen? No human foresightwould suggest that a collision itself might injure one a block away.On the contrary, given an explosion, such a possibility might bereasonably expected. I think the direct connection, the foresight ofwhich the courts speak, assumes prevision of the explosion, for theimmediate results of which, at least, the chauffeur is responsible.It may be said this is unjust. Why? In fairness he should makegood every injury flowing from his negligence. Not because oftenderness toward him we say he need not answer for all that fol lows his wrong. We look back to the catastrophe, the fire kindledby the spark, or the explosion. We trace the consequences, not in definitely, but to a certain point. And to aid us in fixing that pointwe ask what might ordinarily be expected to follow the fire or theexplosion.This last suggestion is the factor which must determine thecase before us. The act upon which defendant’s liability rests isknocking an apparently harmless package onto the platform. Theact was negligent. For its proximate consequences the defendant is 7liable. If its contents were broken, to the owner; if it fell upon andcrushed a passenger’s foot, then to him; if it exploded and injuredone in the immediate vicinity, to him also as to A in the illustra tion. Mrs. Palsgraf was standing some distance away. How farcannot be told from the record-apparently 25 or 30 feet, perhapsless. Except for the explosion, she would not have been injured.We are told by the appellant in his brief, ‘It cannot be denied thatthe explosion was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.’ So itwas a substantial factor in producing the result-there was here anatural and continuous sequence-direct connection. The only inter vening cause was that, instead of blowing her to the ground, theconcussion smashed the weighing machine which in turn fell uponher. There was no remoteness in time, little in space. And surely,given such an explosion as here, it needed no great foresight topredict that the natural result would be to injure one on the plat form at no greater distance from its scene than was the plaintiff.Just how no one might be able to predict. Whether by flying frag ments, by broken glass, by wreckage of machines or structures noone could say. But injury in some form was most probable.Under these circumstances I cannot say as a matter of law thatthe plaintiff’s injuries were not the proximate result of the negli gence. That is all we have before us. The court refused to socharge. No request was made to submit the matter to the jury as aquestion of fact, even would that have been proper upon the recordbefore us.The judgment appealed from should be affirmed, with costs

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