Wednesday, January 1, 2014

O’Brien v. Cunard S.S. Co. case brief

O’Brien v. Cunard S.S. Co. case brief summary
28 N.E. 266 (1891)

Plaintiff appealed an order of the Superior Court (Massachusetts), which ordered a verdict for defendant in plaintiff's action in tort, for an assault, and for negligently vaccinating plaintiff.

Plaintiff bought an action in tort for assault and for her negligent vaccination, while a passenger on defendant's steamship, by a surgeon. The lower court ordered a verdict for defendant, and plaintiff appealed. The Court affirmed.


  • The Court held evidence established that plaintiff did not object to the vaccination in any fashion. 
  • Further, there was nothing in her conduct to indicate to surgeon that she did not wish to obtain the vaccination card that saved her from detention at quarantine. 
  • The Court viewed surgeon's conduct as lawful. 
  • With regard to negligence, court held there was no evidence that surgeon was negligent in performing the vaccination. 
  • However, even if he were, court ruled it would be unreasonable to hold defendant responsible for all the particulars of the surgeon's treatment, when he was engaged in the business of other persons in regard to which defendant was powerless to interfere. 
  • Thus, the ruling of lower court was correct.
The court affirmed verdict for defendant, holding that there was no evidence that defendant, by any of its servants or agents, committed an assault on plaintiff since plaintiff failed to object to being vaccinated and there was no evidence defendant's surgeon was guilty of negligence toward plaintiff.

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