A List of Prominent Negligence Cases

In the area of negligence law, there are various Supreme Court cases that every lawyer should know. Jurisdictions depend on a lawyer’s knowledge of these prominent negligence cases in creating a verdict for a plaintiff. Cases like Palsgraff v. Long Island and Byrne v. Boadle should be part of the everyday vocabulary of a seasoned personal injury lawyer. Each prominent case in the field of negligence law has worked to develop the definition of the elements that make up a valid negligence claim. By understanding these cases, a plaintiff can gain an appreciation for the way in which negligence claims function in the judicial system.

Palsgraff v. Long Island

This case involved a fireworks explosion that harmed a plaintiff who was riding on a train. A man had been carrying a package that contained fireworks. He dropped the package by a train, and the shock waves injured a man named Palsgraff who was riding on the train. Palsgraff ultimately sued the Long Island Railroad company for the tort that resulted from this scenario. This case was influential in negligence law for the way in which it defined the “duty of care” that a person owes to another individual. The court ultimately found that the Long Island Railroad company could not be found liable for the injury of this man, because the company could not foresee that the mishandling of a package containing fireworks would injure Palsgraff. The test resulting from this case is referred to as the “Zone of Danger” test. This test maintains that a person only may recover for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress if he or she is in the zone of danger in which it is foreseeable that a person would be injured.

Byrne v. Boadle

Byrne v. Boadle is another established case in the field of negligence law. This case established the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. This legal doctrine means that the “thing speaks for itself,” which means that plaintiffs may recover for torts that have been obviously caused by the negligence of another person or business. In this case, a man was walking on the street when he was suddenly hit with a barrel of hay. The barrel of hay had fallen from a flour shop. In Byrne v. Boadle, the plaintiff was unable to offer any evidence that showed the barrel had fallen from the flour shop. From this case, the court held that the flour shop had been in control of the barrel that had fallen from the second story of the building. Because the defendant was in possession of this barrel, there was a presumption that the party was negligent for its falling from the window. The defendant was also found to be the proximate cause of the man’s injuries. Because there was no evidence of intervening forces, it was foreseeable that a mishandling of the flour would cause the injury to the man’s head.

MacPherson v. Buick Motor Company

This popular negligence case established the legal doctrine of the general duty of care that manufacturers owe to members of the public. In this case, a plaintiff was injured due to the sudden collapse of a wheel in his new Buick vehicle. The court held that the manufacturer had a duty to inspect the vehicles that contained this wheel, and that it violated this duty of care in allowing cars to be made available to the public in their defective condition.

Paul Denkins is a freelance writer who concentrates on important legal issues such as Traffic Law, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Mass Tort, Intellectual Property and other topics as well.