Friday, October 19, 2012

Bernier v. Boston Edison Company case brief

Bernier v. Boston Edison co. (1980)
403 N.E.2d 391

Procedural History
•    Defendant electric company appealed a decision of a United States District Court (Massachusetts), which entered judgment in favor of plaintiff teenagers in two consolidated actions for injuries that were suffered when an automobile knocked over an electric pole and struck plaintiffs as they walked down a sidewalk.

•    Defendant drivers collided in an intersection, and one became dazed and unknowingly let her foot slip from the brake to the gas pedal. She accelerated across the street and down a sidewalk, where she knocked down an electric light pole owned by defendant electric company. The pole struck plaintiff teenagers on the sidewalk. Both plaintiffs were injured and commenced actions against defendant drivers, which were consolidated, and defendant electric company was later joined.

•    Must the maker or distributor of a product anticipate the environment in which the product will be used?

•    the maker or distributor of a product Must anticipate the environment in which the product will be used

•     the gravaman of the plaintiff’s case was that Edison had failed through negligence to design a pole that was accommodated reasonably to foreseeable vehicular impacts so as to avoid pedestrian injuries, and that  the continued use of the pole created an unreasonable risk of such injuries.
•    As designer  or codesigner of the pole and in control of its maintenance, Edison “must anticipate the environment in which its product will be used, and it must design against the reasonably foreseeable risks attending the product’s use in that setting.”. Certainly the evidence showed that a risk of automobiles colliding with Edison poles — in particular No. 6 poles — was not only foreseeable but well known to the company.
•    since injuries might be serious (as the present case indeed indicated), the likelihood of accidents need not be high to warrant careful consideration of safety features.
•    We should add here that there was evidence from Edison employees of the existence of other pole-types, possibly of greater strength, that would at least have warranted comparison by Edison with the No. 6 pole in respect to safety values.

•    The court found that the jury did have ample evidence to decide on the question of negligence.

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