Sunday, February 3, 2013

McCain v. Florida Power Corporation case brief

McCain v. Florida Power Corporation case summary
593 So. 2d 500 (Fla 1992)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: The court reviewed an order of the District Court of Appeal, Second District, Pasco County (Florida), which entered a directed verdict in a personal injury case, based on conflicting decisions involving foreseeability within the elements of duty and proximate cause.

- The court reviewed a district court of appeal's decision based on conflicting decisions involving foreseeability, duty, and causation.
- Petitioner was injured when the machine he was operating struck respondent power company's underground electrical cable.
-The district court reversed a jury verdict for petitioner and ordered a directed verdict after concluding the injury was not foreseeable.
-The court quashed the opinion and reinstated the verdict.


-The district court's method of analysis was unclear, however, it erred in confusing the duty and proximate causation elements -- foreseeability can be relevant to both elements. Merging the two elements into a single hybrid foreseeability analysis can lead to an imprecise foreseeability analysis which would lead to the wrong result.

-The district court mistakenly assumed that the power company's duty was to foresee the specific sequence of events that led to petitioner's injury, in light of the precautionary measures the company had already taken.
-This allowed the duty element to subsume the question of proximate cause, resulting in the court's improper attempt to resolve on appeal a factual question that should have been left for the jury.


Where a defendant's conduct creates a foreseeable zone of risk, the law generally will recognize a duty placed upon the defendant either to lessen the risk or see that sufficient precautions are taken to protect others from the harm that the risk poses. Thus, as the risk grows greater, so does the duty, because the risk to be perceived defines the duty that must be undertaken.

CONCLUSION: The court quashed the district court opinion and reinstated the jury's verdict because there was sufficient evidence in the record to justify a reasonable juror to conclude that petitioner's injury was proximately caused by a breach of duty imposed by law, and the factual issues were for the jury, not the court, because reasonable persons may differ in resolving them.

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