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Stanford University School of Law
Donohue, John J.

Torts Donohue Autumn 2015


I. Duty, Breach, Causation, Damages

II. Duty: The “Reasonable Person” Std

a. Defining “Reasonable Person” Std

i. Vaughan v. Menlove (burning hayrick, Δ makes argument that he is dumb): Std: man of ordinary prudence

ii. Parrot v. Wells, Fargo & Co. (nitro-glycerine case): Take into account the situation and knowledge of the parties and all attendant circumstances

b. Reasonable Conduct as a Balancing of Costs and Benefits

i. McCarty v. Pheasant Run (unlocked back door of hotel room): “Hand Rule/Formula” à if cost of precaution < magnitude of accident x probability of accident, reasonable person would take the precaution; party must show evidence of calculations to argue this (Posner)

III. Range of Application of the Reasonable Person Std

a. Especially Dangerous Instrumentalities

i. Stewart v. Motts (handling of gasoline): only one std of reasonable care, which is proportionate to the danger involved; no “heightened std of care”

b. Emergencies

i. Myhaver v. Knutson (car crash after swerving to avoid another accident): “sudden emergency” doesn’t lower the std, but is another attendant circumstance considered

c. An Actor’s Superior Knowledge and Skill

i. Cervelli v. Graves (Π hit by truck driver who hit black ice and fishtailed): exceptional skill or knowledge considered; knowledge common to community is but a minimum std for the reasonable man

d. Youth: Special Treatment for Minors à generally, special lower std of care for children comparing Δ to child of same age, intelligence, maturity, experience, etc.

i. Robinson v. Lindsay (snowmobile accident): adult std for kids when engaged in inherently dangerous activities

ii. Peterson v. Taylor (kid hurt when playing with gasoline in neighbor’s garage): expert testimony as to whether a similar, reasonable child would have acted differently is inadmissible, only a question for the jury

e. Physical and Mental Disabilities

i. Poyner v. Loftus (bling guy falls off ledge when walking with no dog or cane): physically disabled people held to std of conduct of a reasonable person with similar disability (std can be raised or lowered)

ii. Creasy v. Rusk: mentally disabled held to ordinary std

f. Recklessness à all unintentional torts other than negligence à covers behavior that descri

y and breach if the statute’s main purpose was to protect the injured party form that type of harm

i. Martin v. Herzog (driving w/o lights on): If party commits unexcused violation a statute that is the cause of an accident, that unexcused violation constitutes negligence per se.

ii. Thomas v. McDonald (broken down truck didn’t have flares): For negligence per se to apply, Π must be a member of the class that the statute was designed to protect and the harm he suffered must be of the type of harm that the statute intended to prevent; violation of statute must be proximate cause of harm

iii. Wawanesa Insurance v. Matlock (minor w/ cigs causes fire): Statute must be designed to protect against the kind of harm suffered

iv. Sikora v. Wenzel (landlord had no reason to know of defective construction): negligence per se liability may be excused by lack of actual or constructive notice of the factual circumstances that caused the violation of a statute