Monday, November 11, 2013

Cooley v. Public Service Co. case brief

Cooley v. Public Service Co. case brief summary
10 A.2d 673 (N.H. 1940)

Plaintiff telephone subscriber sued defendant public service company for injuries she suffered when fallen wires came in contact with telephone wires while she was using the telephone. Following a jury verdict in a trial court (New Hampshire), the company sought review.


The subscriber suffered traumatic neurosis, an emotional injury accompanied by loss of sensation on the left side, after wires fell during a storm and caused an explosive sound in the telephone she was using. She did not claim that the company was negligent, but rather that it had a duty to maintain devices at cross-overs to prevent wires from coming into contact with a telephone wire. The two devices suggested were a wire-mesh basket suspended from the poles or insulation.


  • The court examined both alternatives and found that each presented flaws and potential dangers, particularly that there was danger of electrocution in the street. 
  • As long as the telephone company's safety devices were properly installed and maintained, there was no danger of electrocution in the house. 
  • The only foreseeable danger to the telephone subscriber was fright and neurosis from noise.
  • Balancing the two, the danger to those such as the subscriber was remote, while that to those on the ground near the broken wires was obvious and immediate. 
  • The balance would not have been improved by taking a chance to avoid traumatic neurosis at the expense of greater risk to the lives of others.


The court held that a verdict should have been directed for the company and ordered judgment in its favor.

Suggested Study Aids For Tort Law

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