82 U.S. 524, 21 L. Ed. 206, 15 Wall. 524 (1872)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff landlord sought review of a decision from the United States Circuit Court for the District of California, which entered judgment in part for the landlord in its action for trespass arising out of the alleged negligence of defendant tenants, but held that the tenants were not liable for damages caused by an explosion to other portions of the landlord's buildings that were leased to and occupied by other tenants.
-The landlord's buildings were damaged by a package that exploded.
-The tenants, express carriers, did not know the contents of the package or have any reason to suspect its dangerous character.
-The trial court held that the tenants were not liable for injuries to that portion of the buildings not covered by their lease.
-On appeal, the United States Supreme Court affirmed.
The tenants, as carriers, had no duty to require knowledge of the contents of the package unless there were good grounds for believing that the package contained something dangerous.
-Negligence has been defined to be the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
-It must be determined in all cases by reference to the situation and knowledge of the parties and all the attendant circumstances.
-What would be extreme care under one condition of knowledge, and one state of circumstances, would be gross negligence with different knowledge and in changed circumstances. The law is reasonable in its judgments in this respect. It does not charge culpable negligence upon any one who takes the usual precautions against accident, which careful and prudent men are accustomed to take under similar circumstances.
-The Court held that the tenants, being ignorant of the contents of the package received in their regular course of business, were not guilty of negligence in introducing the package into their place of business and handling it in the same manner as other packages of similar outward appearance were usually handled.
-They were not liable for injuries resulting from an unavoidable accident that occurred while they were engaged in a lawful business and exercising the standard of care required of a person of ordinary prudence and caution.
CONCLUSION: The Court affirmed the judgment finding that the tenants were not liable for damages to those portions of the landlord's buildings that were leased to and occupied by other tenants.
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?