Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hoyt v. Jeffers case brief

Hoyt v. Jeffers case brief summary
30 Mich. 181 (1874)

Defendant saw-mill owner challenged the judgment of the Saginaw Circuit Court (Michigan), which entered judgment in favor of plaintiff property owner for a fire caused by the escape of sparks from the saw-mill chimney. The fire destroyed a hotel and attached or nearby buildings.

The trial court permitted the property owner to show that the mill had for years given off sparks, that the mill foreman had notice thereof, and that the sparks could have been prevented by installation of a spark-catcher on the chimney top.


  • The court held that the evidence was properly allowed and affirmed the verdict. 
  • The evidence was admissible because it showed circumstances tending to prove that the property was set on fire by the mill.
  • Because the mill owner was away, and in justice and fairness to adjacent proprietors whose property might be injured by the mode of running the mill, notice to his foreman was notice to the mill owner. 
  • Testimony in relation to the use of spark-catchers was properly admitted because when, as here, the mill was situated in the midst of a city, and was without any apparatus for arresting the escape of sparks, it was the mill owner's moral and his legal duty to try to minimize the hazard. 
  • Finally, the court held that the trial court's negligence instruction properly focused on the danger created by the hazard rather than the fact that the mill had not previously caused a fire.

The court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, which found the mill owner liable for damages from the fire.

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