Friday, October 19, 2012

Marshall v. Nugent case brief

Marshall v. Nugent (1955)
222 F.2d 604

Procedural History
•    Co-defendants and plaintiff cross-appealed judgments of the district court in an action alleging negligence for injuries suffered while plaintiff attempted to warn oncoming traffic of dangerous traffic condition.

Legally Significant Facts
•    Three appeals arose from judgments in favor of injured plaintiff. The first, by defendant oil company, alleged error on grounds of lower court’s refusal of motion for directed verdict at close of all the evidence as to contributory negligence as a matter of law; that defendant’s acts constituted merely a condition, not a proximate cause, of harm; and employee’s conduct was outside scope of employment.
•    The court found plaintiff acted as reasonable person to warn oncoming traffic of accident; plaintiff’s injury was not remote and occurred while accident scene still existed; and oil company’s employee briefly stopped while in the course of authorized journey. The court found plaintiff’s contention that lower court’s judgment in favor of co-defendant, driver of automobile that struck plaintiff, was proper because no evidence of substantial or prejudicial error at trial existed. The court found that defendant oil company lacked standing to assert indemnification.

•    The defendant remains liable for the full consequences of his negligent act when the intervening force is one which a reasonable man would have foreseen as likely to occur under the circumstances, and the issue of foreseeability remains a question of fact for the jury.

•    To establish liability it is not necessarily true that the defendant’s culpable act must be shown to have been the next or immediate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The defendant’s act may be more remote in the chain of events; and the plaintiff’s injury may more immediately have been caused by an intervening force of nature, or an intervening act of a third person whether culpable or not, or even an act by the plaintiff bringing himself in contact with the dangerous situation resulting from the defendant’s negligence.
•    In dealing with issues of negligence and proximate causation, the trial judge has to make a preliminary decision whether the issues are such that reasonable men might differ on the inferences to be drawn. This preliminary decision is said to be a question of law, for it is one which the court has to decide, but it is nevertheless necessarily the exercise of a judgment on the facts, just as an appellate court may have to exercise a judgment on the facts, in reviewing whether the trial judge should or should not have left the issue to the jury.

•    Court affirmed judgment against defendant oil company as plaintiff’s attempt to warn was reasonable and did not constitute contributory negligence; extra risks created by defendant’s negligence were not over after collision; court affirmed judgment against plaintiff as jury verdict was not so decidedly against evidence as to shock conscience.

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