Torts I, Pages 344–346

Derdiarian v. Felix Contracting Corp.

New York Court of Appeals, 1980


Defendant Felix Contracting Corp. was contracted to install a gas main, and plaintiff was subcontractor to seal it. While driving a vehicle, defendant Dickens had an epileptic seizure and lost consciousness, allowing his vehicle to drive into the work site. His vehicle struck plaintiff, throwing him into the air, as well as striking a kettle of enamel used to seal the main. The 400 degree liquid enamel splattered onto plaintiff's face, head, and body, igniting him into a fire ball. Plaintiff still miraculously survived.

Procedural History:

Jury found for the plaintiff. Appellate Division affirmed.


Was defendant Dickens' act an intervening cause negating defendant Felix's liability?

Plaintiff's Argument:

Defendant Felix negligently failed to take adequate safety measures, such as erecting a barrier around the excavation to protect against oncoming traffic and hiring additional flagmen.

Defendant's Argument:

Plaintiff was injured solely by defendant Dickens' negligence. There is no causal link between Felix's breach of duty and plaintiff's injuries.


Page 345, Paragraph 7When a third person intervenes between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injury, liability turns upon whether the intervening act is a normal or foreseeable consequence of the situation created by the defendant's negligence. If the intervening act is extraordinary under the circumstances, not foreseeable in the normal course of events, or independent of or far removed from the defendant's conduct, it may well be a superseding act which breaks the causal nexus.


The safety measures negligently not implemented by defendant were intended to prevent such an accident. An accident was a foreseeable consequence of defendant's negligence, and thus Dickens' intervention is not a superseding intervening cause.


Dickens' act does not negate Felix's liability. Affirmed.