Torts I

Cordas v. Peerless Transportation Co.

City Court of New York, New York County, 1941

Facts:

A criminal got into a cab, put a gun to the driver's head, and told him to drive. The cab driver began driving then put on the emergency brake and jumped out the cab. The criminal then jumped out and was apprehended, and the cab continued on to impact the plaintiffs.

Issues:

  • Is one liable for actions that may cause harm to others when they are acting out of self-preservation?

  • Bell's: What is the standard of care in an emergency?

Rules:

  • One cannot be held liable for actions motivated by a serious threat of bodily injury or death.

  • Bell's: A person in an emergency will not be expected to exercise the same standard of car as a person not in an emergency.

  • Bell's: The standard of care of a person in an emergency is that of a reasonable person in that emergency.

Reasoning:

The desire to live is an innate and fundamental part of man. He cannot be held liable for actions resulting therefrom.

Holding:

No, one is not liable for actions that may cause harm to others when they are acting out of self-preservation.

Takeaways:

  • One cannot be held liable for negligence for actions motivated by a serious threat of bodily injury or death.

  • Establishes the Sudden Emergency Doctrine.


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