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Butterfield v. Forrester

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

Butterfield v. Forrester

Citation. 11 East 60, 103 Eng.Rep. 926 (K.B. 1809).
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Plaintiff, Butterfield (Plaintiff), was injured when he rode his horse into an obstruction placed into the road by the Defendant, Forrester (Defendant). A witness said that if Plaintiff had not been riding hard, he would have been able to see and avoid the obstruction.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The plaintiff’s failure to exercise reasonable and ordinary care in this case is a complete bar to recovery from the defendant, initializing the concept of contributory negligence.


The Defendant had put up a pole across a public road for the purpose of making some repairs to his house. The Plaintiff, riding violently, did not see the pole and was thrown from his horse by the pole, injuring himself. A witness stated that if the Plaintiff had not been riding violently, he would have been able to see and avoid the pole. The judge directed the jury that if they found that a person riding with reasonable and ordinary care could have avoided the obstruction and if Plaintiff was not riding with ordinary care, the jury should find a verdict for the Defendant. The jury found for Defendant.


Is the defendant liable for injuries caused by his negligence when the plaintiff could have avoided the injuries by exercising reasonable and ordinary care?


No. Rule refused.
* Justice Bayley: If the Plaintiff had used ordinary care, he would have seen the obstruction, so the accident happened entirely at his own fault.
* Chief Justice Lord Ellenborough: One person being in fault will not dispense with another’s using ordinary care for himself. The Plaintiff cannot recover for casting himself on an obstruction made by the fault of another if he did not use common and ordinary caution to be in the right.


The Court’s holding in this case is demonstrative of common law contributory negligence, which completely bars recovery if plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the happening of the accident.

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