Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tort of the week: Williams v. Jordan (1961)

[I anticipate this will be sustainable as a weekly feature, as the casebook, being a casebook, is full of these.]

Prosser p. 134:

"Defendant parks his car on the edge of a city street without a curb, in front of a house where a mother and a 13-month old toddler are sitting on a front porch. He goes across the street to visit a friend there. He comes back in 5 minutes, gets in the car and drives off. There is a bump that he thought was a paving stone, but that turned out to be the toddler who had crawled under the car. Was he negligent? (Williams v. Jordan, 208 Tenn. 456 (1961))"

First guess discussion:

I am anticipating that some of you may want to play along at home, so I'll outline a few concepts here.

Basically, for there to be a cause of action for negligence, there must be:
  • A DUTY to use reasonable care.
  • A BREACH of that duty.
  • A reasonably close CAUSAL connection between the breach and the resulting injury.
  • DAMAGE resulting from the breach.
To me, this case fails on duty: Can a person exercising reasonable care be in any way said to have an affirmative duty to check for toddlers under his car? I think NO. Case should have been dismissed before even going to a jury as there is no triable issue of fact.

Let's see what the appeals court said.... [Pause for LexisNexis search]

YEAH!! Suit dismissed!!!

"A driver * * * is under no legal obligation to make a search around and under his car 'lest a child too young for discretion and undirected by parents had tucked herself away in an obscure place, beyond the casual and convenient notice of the driver.'"

However, some of the LexisNexis notes surrounding the opinion note that IF clearly unsupervised toddlers were visibly swarming around your car at the time you were starting to drive away, ordinary care would generally require you to make sure none of them were under there before you took off.

And also, Lexis flags the case as possibly having some adverse history, meaning that some other court somewhere may have decided that you do have an affirmative duty to check for toddlers under there. Or not. I haven't learned enough about Lexis to be able to find the adverse history yet. Maybe next week.

And so ends our Tort of the Week. Let's all be careful out there.


At 3:31 PM, October 03, 2005, Blogger velvet_rut said...

yay! i picked "nay: defendant is not liable."

At 10:59 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger arguchik said...

me too, me too! maybe i *should* have gone to law school instead of grad school...

At 9:24 PM, October 18, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't ever say that arguchik


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