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Berry v. Sugar Notch Borough

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. Berry (Plaintiff) was going faster than eight miles per hour, in violation of a statute. A gust of wind blew a tree on top of his car. Plaintiff sued Defendant to recover damages for trespass for personal injuries.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To impose liability based on the violation of a statute, the violation must be the cause of the injury sustained, and not some mere coincidence.

    Facts. A local ordinance stated that cars could go no faster than eight miles an hour. Plaintiff was going faster than eight miles per hour, in violation of the statute. A gust of wind blew a tree on top of his car. Plaintiff sued to recover damages for trespass for personal injuries. The trial court awarded a verdict and judgment for Plaintiff for $3,162.50. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Does Plaintiff’s violation of a statute eliminate Plaintiff’s ability to recover damages?

    Held. No. The violation of the statute was a coincidence and not the cause of the incident. Judgment affirmed.
    * Defendant claimed that Plaintiff’s speed caused his injuries because it brought him to the exact place, at the exact time the tree fell. The court disagrees that the speed was the immediate cause of Plaintiff’s injury.
    * Defendant’s next claim is that the speed at least contributed to the incident’s severity, and materially increased the damage. The jury would have no basis on which to support this finding.

    Discussion. Plaintiff’s breach of a safety statute was not causally connected with his injuries because it did not increase the risk or hazard of being stuck by the tree. It is irrelevant that the increased speed coincidentally landed Plaintiff under the tree.


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