Ch. 1 – INTRODUCTION TO TORT LIABILITY
WHEN SHOULD UNINTENTED INJURY RESULT IN LIABILITY?
Hammontree v. Jenner
i. Facts: Jenner (D) had an inexplicable epileptic fit while driving and injured Hammontree (P). Jenner has a medical history of epilepsy and takes medication regularly capable of controlling his condition.
ii. Issue: Is the D strictly liable or liable for negligence to the P when he causes harm due to an unexpected seizure or health failure as a manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when a defective article he places on the market causes injury to a person?
iii. Holding/Rule: No. D is not liable. One cannot be held negligent or strictly liable for injury when the injury is caused by an unexpected deviation in physical health.
Things to Know:
i. Where the driver has constructive or actual notice of the onset of serious illness which might make driving dangerous, negligence may be found.
ii. Where a medical condition beyond the driver’s control and unforeseeable causes the accident no liability will normally be found. No fault/negligence will be found.
iii. Negligence claims – have to prove fault, foreseeability.
1. strict liability can have a chilling effect on society.
2. If measures must take to avoid harm are too expensive then can take chances and allow possible accident to happen. But if measure was not too expensive then will be found negligent if don’t take it and cause harm.
iv. Absolute liability – have to prove action that led to the harm.
1. Abs. liability is given to manufacturers for defective products that cause injury to people because they are directly responsible for anticipating such defects (have main control over what products enter the market and what inspect) and to ensure products’ safety. There is a business incentive to take these extra precautions.
v. Res ipsa loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself” – In some circumstances, the mere fact of an accident’s occurrence raises an interference of negligence so as to establish a prima facie case.
vi. Prima facie case – case is sufficient on its face; evidence supporting it is adequate to establish one conclusion because meets all the elements of the claim (so can have summary judgment in P’s favor; can apply the law to the facts, no dispute over facts – reasonable minds cannot differ).
THE PARTIES AND VICARIOUS LIABILITY
Christensen v. Swenson et. al.
i. Facts: Christensen (P) alleged that Swenson’s (D) employer was vicariously liable for damages caused by Swenson, an employee who collided into P coming back to his work post after picking up food in a usual restaurant nearby during his permitted break.
ii. Holding: Swenson’s employer was not held vicariously liable because reasonable minds could differ on all of the Birkner criteria for acts that fall under the scope of employment.
iii. Rule: For an employer to be vicariously liable for the torts committed by an employee, the employee must have been acting within the scope of his employment.
Birkner criteria of when acts fall in scope of employment:
i. was doing act employed/required to perform, not doing on own volition
ii. conduct occurs within hours and spatial boundaries of employment
iii. must be motivated at least in part by the purpose of serving the employer’s interest
as swinging a stick while attempting to separate two fighting dogs (his and P’s). While D was hitting dogs, he approached P without knowing and struck P in the eye. D’s action of beating the dogs to separate them was lawful.
Issue: Should a person be held liable if while doing a lawful act, that person unintentionally hits and injures another?
Holding/Rule: Yes, a person can be held liable for injuries to another if, while doing a lawful act, that person unintentionally hits and injures another, if the injured person proves that the D did not use ordinary care AND the actions of the injured person did not contribute to his injuries.
Things to know:
P has the burden of proving that D was negligent (i.e. failed to exercise ordinary care) while P was exercising ordinary care in order to hold D liable for damages.
i. Ordered new trial because instructions to the jury placed the burden on D to show that he used extraordinary care or P failed to use ordinary care, rather than having placed the burden of proof on P to prove his case.
Ordinary care – the kind and degree of care which prudent and cautious people would use, such is required under the circumstances and is necessary to guard against probable danger.
When def engages in a lawful act may the pl recover if the pl is at fault? No.