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Torts
University of Denver School of Law
Best, Arthur

TORTS OUTLINE
 
Reckless v. Negligent v. Intentional
Negligence- unaware of risks, lack of attention to risks, inadvertence
Recklessness- aware of serious risks but conscious disregard, ignoring facts that would lead to the reasonable conclusion that there are serious risks
 
NEGLIGENCE
DUTY
BREACH
CAUSATION
DAMAGES
 
1. TRESPASSERS
à 2 classes of trespassers
1—mere trespassers—landowner owes duty not to recklessly or wantonly injure them
2—trespassers with intent to commit a criminal act—landowner only owes duty not to intentionally injure them
 
Ryals v. United States Steel Corp.
Procedural Posture: Trial court granted summary judgment to US Steel, no issue of material fact, only duty of care owed to Ryals was not to intentionally harm him—affirmed
 
Facts: Ryals and his brother went to US Steel switch rack for the purpose of “stripping out” salvageable metals. Rusty warning sign, detached metal parts, vegetation at base of structure with gate to switch rack wide open. Ryals came into conduct with a live copper line and died of 3rd degree burns over the majority of his body. Two prior deaths under similar circumstances.
 
Issue: What duty of care did US Steel owe to Ryals as a trespasser with the intent to commit a criminal act?
 
Holding: Public policy justifies separate duties of care for mere trespassers and criminal trespassers. US Steel owed Ryals only the duty of care to not intentionally harm him which was not at issue in this case. There is no question of material fact to be presented to a jury.
 
 
2. REASONABLE PERSON STANDARD
à how careful some people are supposed to be to protect some other people from some types of injuries
—    usually, the duty of care owed is to act as a “reasonable prudent person” would
—    rationale: this simplifies life—if we can all expect that others will act in a reasonable way we do not need to anticipate their individual abilities and capabilities, and if they fail to act in a reasonable way we can expect to be compensated for resulting injuries
o       predictability, efficiency
 
Vaughn v. Menlove
à dumb hayrick builder- no different standard of care
Procedural Posture: Verdict for plaintiff, defendant won order requiring a new trial. On review, verdict for plaintiff upheld.
 
Facts: Farmer with low intelligence built a hayrick in a way that facilitated combustion. Hayrick caught fire, fire spread to cottages on neighbor’s land.
 
Issue: Should jury have been given instruction that defendant acted to the best of his own judgment because of his low intelligence rather than the standard reasonable person instruction.
 
Holding: The reasonable person instruction was appropriate—allowing each individual to be held to a standard dependant on his own reasonable judgment would leave no discernable rule to follow. 
à reasonable person standard gives an objective perspective for juries—a subjective standard tailored to each individual would be impossible for juries to interpret
 
Parrot v. Wells Fargo (Nitroglycerine case)
Procedural Posture: District court held that Wells Fargo had no liability for damages to property other than that which it leased and was required by the lease to repair. Affirmed.
à this case was decided by the Supreme Court, this was before Erie, now it would be based on state law not federal common law
 
Facts: Wells Fargo carriers unknowingly transported a crate containing nitroglycerine to SF where it was discovered to be leaking. Another similar box was also damaged. Pursuant to Wells Fargo policy, the boxes were taken to a WF office and opened. The box containing nitroglycerine was opened with a chisel and mallet when it exploded killing everyone present and damaged the building containing the WF office as well as surrounding buildings. 
—this action was brought by the owner of the buildings for damages to all property, not only that which WF was responsible for by the terms of its lease
 
Issue: Was WF negligent in not learning the contents of the crate before opening in? 
            —important to note the required knowledge of actors in present circumstances
 
Holding: WF acted reasonably under the circumstances, they were not negligent in failing to learn the contents of the crate nor were they negligent in following their practices for opening damaged crates.
à it is economically unreasonable for carriers to be required to learn the contents of each package they ship and as such WF breached no duty
à no one is responsible for injuries resulting from unavoidable accidents while engaged in lawful business
 
a. LEARNED HAND FORMULA
 
McCarty v. Pheasant Run, Inc.
Procedural Posture: Jury returned verdict for defendant on negligence claim. Plaintiff entered motion for judgment not withstanding the verdict—this was dismissed by the trial court and she appealed. Affirmed on appeal
 
Facts: McCarty was a guest at Pheasant Run Lodge and, unbeknownst to her, stayed in a room with 2 doors—the main door from the hallway, and a sliding glass door covered by curtains leading outside to a walkway and courtyard with public access. Upon entering the room after dinner she was attacked by a masked man—her injuries were not serious but she is claiming prolonged emotional distress.
à the sliding glass door was not locked and the security chain on it was broken by the intruder
Issue: McCarty claims the Lodge was negligent in not locking the door upon her arrival, not warning her to keep the door locked, not providing better security, etc.
 
Holding: Using the Learned Hand Formula for determining negli

a truck in the course of his employment. Graves attempted to pass Cervelli’s out of control vehicle and then lost control of the cement truck and the two vehicles collided.
 
Issue: Should the trial court have given a jury instruction not to take into consideration Graves’ exceptional skill and knowledge—“the standard is not one of exceptional skill or knowledge, but rather what a reasonable prudence would do in the situation”
 
Holding: Following the Restatement of Torts, if an actor has superior qualities than the reasonable prudent person, he is required to exercise the superior qualities in a manner reasonable under the circumstances
 
 
e. MINORS
à reasonable child standard of care applies except when concerning 1) an adults only activity, or 2) an inherently dangerous activity
—rationale: children are young and naïve and society wants to encourage them to engage in activities and have the freedom to act without repercussions, and it is the responsibility of knowledgeable adults to anticipate potential harm or danger caused by children, usually the injuries caused by children in children’s activities are not severe
 
Robinson v. Lindsay
Procedural Posture: At trial a child standard of care was given, when the jury returned a verdict for the Defendant, Anderson, the court ordered a new trial because it believed an adult instruction should have been given. Order granting a new trial is affirmed.
 
Facts: 13-year-old, Anderson, was driving a snowmobile when it crashed and Robinson, and 11-year-old, lost full use of one thumb.
 
Issue: Whether a minor operating a snowmobile should be held to an adult standard of care or the special children’s standard.
 
Holding: The Defendant should be held to an adult standard of care because he was engaged in an activity which is inherently dangerous and traditionally an adult activity. The hazard to the public presented by motor vehicles is so severe that it is inappropriate to negate the danger with a children’s standard of care instruction.
 
 
Peterson v. Taylor
à child’s negligence in a contributory jurisdiction
 
Procedural Posture: Trial court entered a verdict for the Defendants (Taylors) based on Peterson’s contributory negligence. Peterson