33 Cal. 2d 80 (1948)
-This case deals with consolidated appeals from a Superior Court of Los Angeles judgement that awarded the P damages for personal injures that arisen out of a hunting accident.
-It was a negligence action against two defendant hunters.
-The P and Ds went on a hunting trip.
-P provided each D with directions on how to fire their weapons safely.
-Both D's attempted to shoot their target, and both fired in the P's direction.
-P was injured in his right eye and on his face.
-P sued both D's under negligence.
-Trial Court entered judgement in P's favor.
• When two or more persons by their acts are possibly the sole cause of harm, and the plaintiff has introduced evidence that one of the two persons is possibly responsible, do the D's have the burden of proving that the other person was the sole cause of the harm?
• Yes. When two or more people, each by their acts, are possibly the sole cause of harm, and the P has introduced evidence that one of the two persons is responsible, then the D has the burden of proving that the other person was the sole cause of the harm.
Rules• Where a group of persons are on a hunting party, or otherwise engaged in the use of firearms, and two of them are negligent in firing in the direction of a third person who is injured thereby, both of those so firing are liable for the injury suffered by the third person, although the negligence of only one of them could have caused the injury.
• For harm resulting to a third person from the tortious conduct of another, a person is liable if he knows that the other’s conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other so to conduct himself, or gives substantial assistance to the other in accomplishing a tortious result and his own conduct, separately considered, constitutes a breach of duty to the third person.
• When two or more persons by their acts are possibly the sole cause of a harm, or when two or more acts of the same person are possibly the sole cause, and the plaintiff has introduced evidence that the one of the two persons, or the one of the same person’s two acts, is culpable, then the defendant has the burden of proving that the other person, or his other act, was the sole cause of the harm.
• Policy – Unfair to deny injured person redress because he can not prove how much damage each individual did. If it is certain that between the two of them that they did all the damage, they should be the ones to apportion the damage done among themselves.
-Do not apply the rule when two merely act in conscious concert. Instead, apply the rule whenever the harm has plural causes.
-Ds are in a far better position to offer evidence that would determine which one caused the injury.
-If the Ds are independent tort feasors and, as such, both are liable for the damage caused by an individual alone, and where the matter of apportionment of damages is incapable of proving, the innocent wronged party should not be deprived of his right to redress.
-Wrongdoers should be left to work the apportionment of damages between themselves.
• The judgment of the lower court was affirmed because defendants failed to meet their burden of proving which was responsible for plaintiff’s injury; therefore, because each acted negligently, each was responsible to P for damages from the injuries that the P sustained.
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?