Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Martin v. Herzog case brief

Martin v. Herzog case summary
126 N.E. 814 (N.Y. 1920)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff appealed the order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the second judicial department (New York) that reversed a judgment entered after a jury trial found defendant negligent and plaintiff blameless with regard to the death of plaintiff's husband caused when defendant's car hit plaintiff's buggy.

-Plaintiff and her husband were traveling by buggy at night.
-Defendant was driving a car, rounded a curve, and approached the buggy from the opposite direction.
-When defendant's car hit the buggy, plaintiff and her husband were thrown to the ground. Plaintiff's husband was killed in the collision.
-Plaintiff sued to recover damages for injuries that resulted in death.
-At trial, court refused defendant's requested ruling that absence of statutorily required lights on plaintiff's vehicle was prima facie evidence of contributory negligence.


-On appeal, the court held that unexcused omission of statutory signals was more than some evidence of negligence: It was negligence itself.

-The court further determined that evidence of a collision that occurred more that an hour after sundown between a car and an unseen buggy that proceeded without lights was evidence from which a causal connection was inferred between the collision and lack of signals.

-Courts must be on their guard against confusing the question of negligence with that of the causal connection between the negligence and the injury.
 -A defendant who travels without lights is not to pay damages for his fault unless the absence of lights is the cause of the disaster.
-A plaintiff who travels without them is not to forfeit the right to damages unless the absence of lights is at least a contributing cause of the disaster.
-To say that conduct is negligence is not to say that it is always contributory negligence.
-Proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do.

Order affirmed; jury ought to have been informed what effect they were free to give to plaintiff's failure to have lights on buggy, which was violation of statute. Jury should have been instructed that not only was omission of lights negligence, but it was prima facie evidence of contributory negligence.

Interested in learning how to get the top grades in your law school classes? Want to learn how to study smarter than your competition? Interested in transferring to a high ranked school?

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Evolution of Legal Marketing: From Billboards to Digital Leads Over the last couple of decades, the face of legal marketing has changed a l...