Torts I

Brown v. Kendall

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 1850

Facts:

Defendant saw his dog and plaintiff's dog fighting. He approached them with a stick and prepared to use it to stop them fighting, but accidentally hit the plaintiff in the eye.

Procedural History:

Judge instructed jury to find for the defendant only if stopping the dogs was a necessary duty, using the minimum force to do so, or if stopping the dogs was optional but legal and he used "extraordinary" care. The judge also said the burden of proof for these was on the defendant. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff.

Issue:

What level of caution is needed in legally permissible acts?

With who does the burden of proof lie for unintentional injuries?

Rule:

If the defendant was using ordinary care or if neither party was using ordinary care, the plaintiff cannot recover. The burden of proof for showing this lies with the plaintiff.

Ordinary care is the degree of care using by cautious me to guard against probable danger.

Reasoning:

The jury was misinformed in the trial. The plaintiff needed to show that the defendant was not using ordinary care and that the defendant was.

Holding:

Ordinary care is needed to not be liable for resulting injury. The burden of proof for showing this lies with the plaintiff. New trial ordered.

Takeaway:

Ordinary care is needed to not be liable for a resulting injury.

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