Torts I, Pages 303–304

Summers v. Tice

Supreme Court of California, 1948

Facts:

Plaintiff and defendants were hunting when both defendants shot at a quill and one of them hit plaintiff in the eye. No party knew which defendant shot plaintiff.

Procedural History:

Trial court found for plaintiff against both defendants.

Issue:

If two defendants shoot at plaintiff and only one hits without knowing which, are both defendants liable?

Defendant's Argument:

Only one person could have shot plaintiff so only one person should be liable.

Rule:

Bell: Where both act negligently but only one is liable, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant.

Notes:

  • All wrong-doers must be before the court for the rule to apply.

  • The burden only shifts if all are wrong-doers

  • The Restatements 2nd and 3rd proved this rule.

  • In medical cases, defendant's burden is to show they didn't breach their duty, not that they did not cause the harm.

Reasoning:

To hold otherwise would be to exonerate both from liability, although each was negligent, and the injury resulted from such negligence.

Rule/Holding:

When two people both shoot at something, they are both liable for the resulting harm, even if only one of them hits without knowing which did so.

Judgment:

Affirmed.

Like my site?
Slightly less broke than the average law student?
Want to give me money for some reason?

I accept donations!

(Don't feel bad if you don't) (Not tax-deductible)