Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brown v. Kendall case brief summary

Brown v. Kendall case brief summary
( Supreme Judicial Court of Mass. 1850)
Topic:  embracing of concept of fault

 
Case FactsThis was an action of trespass for assault and battery. Brown (P) and Kendall (D) both owned dogs who were fighting. The defendant unintentionally struck the plaintiff in the eye with a stick he was using to try to separate the dogs. The judge instructed the jury that if the defendant was performing a necessary act or one which was his duty to perform, and was doing it in a proper way, then he would not be liable if he was using ordinary care (the degree of care cautious men would use that is necessary to guard against probable danger. If Kendall did not have a duty to separate the dogs, he was liable for Brown’s injuries unless he was exercising extraordinary care and the accident was inevitable. However, Brown could not recover in any case if he himself had not been exercising ordinary care to avoid the injury. If Kendall had a duty to interfere, then Brown had the burden of proof to show both negligence by Kendall, and that Brown had used ordinary care to avoid the injury. If the act was not necessary, Kendall had the burden to show that he had exercised extraordinary care or that Brown had not used ordinary care in avoiding the injury. The jury ruled in favor of Brown. Kendall appealed.

Procedural History— Supreme court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant argued that the judge’s instructions did not conform to the law.

Legal Issue—“ The plaintiff must come prepared with evidence to show either that the intention was unlawful of that the defendant was in fault. If the injury was unavoidable and his conduct free from blame he will not be liable.
  1. Can a person be liable in trespass without proof of negligence or fault
  2. Whether or not it was error for trial court to dismiss jury
  3. Who has the burden of proof to show that the defendant was not using ordinary care
Holding— The court determined the judge’s directions to the jury were not conformable to the law. If the defendant did not intentionally hit the plaintiff and did so doing a lawful act he is not liable. In order for him to be liable the plaintiff must prove that the defendant did not use due care in the act.

Analysis— The plaintiff must be prepared with evidence to show either that the intention was unlawful or that the defendant was in fault. If the injury was unavoidable and conduct of defendant free from blame he is not liable.

Judgment/ Resulting Rule — New trial ordered. If an accidental casualty arises from a lawful act, no action can be supported for Plaintiff unless lack of “ordinary care” can be proved by Plaintiff

Vocabulary:
  • Vi et armis: By or with force and arms
  • Ordinary care: cautious
  • Prudence:cautious
  • Liability for Negligence: The plaintiff cannot recover if both plaintiff and defendant were using ordinary care, or if the defendant was using ordinary care and the plaintiff was not, or if neither party was using ordinary care.
  • Standard of Ordinary Care: The standard of ordinary care is determined on a case by case basis. It is that kind and degree of care which prudent and cautious men would use, such as is required by the exigency of the case, and such as is necessary to guard against probable danger.
  • Inevitable Accident: An inevitable accident in which the defendant could not have avoided by the use of the kind and degree of care necessary to the exigency under the circumstances.
*In this case Kendall was doing a lawful act and unintentionally injured Brown. Brown cannot recover unless he can prove that Kendall was negligent.

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