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Brief Fact Summary.
The Plaintiff, Davies (Plaintiff), had his ass illegally tethered along a public highway. The Defendant, Mann (Defendant), came along the path at a quick pace and ran down the ass, killing it. The judge instructed the jury that if the proximate cause of the injury was due to the lack of proper conduct of the Defendant, an action is maintainable.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
If the defendant had an opportunity to avoid the accident after the plaintiff no longer had such an opportunity, and the defendant improperly did not avoid the accident, he is liable. This initiated the last clear chance doctrine.
The Plaintiff had an ass grazing on the side of a public highway. The ass was fettered, and the Plaintiff was some distance away. The Defendant’s wagon came down the path at “a smartish pace” and knocked down the ass, killing it. The judge instructed the jury that even if leaving the ass fettered in the highway was an illegal act, if the proximate cause of the injury was attributable to the lack of proper conduct on the part of the Defendant, an action was maintainable for the Defendant. The jury found their verdict for the Plaintiff.
Is a defendant liable for injuries caused by his negligence when the plaintiff’s negligence was also a cause of the injury?
* Chief Bench Lord Abinger: Even if the animal was unlawfully in the road, if the Defendant could have avoided injuring the animal through proper care, but failed to do so, he is liable for the consequences of his negligence.
* Bench Parke: Defendant was bound to go along the road at a pace likely to prevent mischief.
The holding in this case has developed into the doctrine of last clear chance, where if the defendant had the opportunity to avoid the accident after the opportunity was no longer available to the plaintiff, the defendant has a duty to do so or else he will bear the loss.