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Marshall v. Nugent


    Citation. Marshall v. Nugent, 222 F.2d 604 (1st Cir. N.H. May 13, 1955)

    Brief Fact Summary. An oil company and the driver of its truck, (Defendants) and the Plaintiff appealed the district court judgments in a negligence action.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. One is liable for the harmful consequences that result from the creation of unreasonable risk, i.e., risk that is foreseeable and is the immediate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The assigning of such liability is a question for the trier of fact.


    Facts. Plaintiff was a passenger of a car that went off the road under icy conditions when an approaching truck crossed into his lane. The truck driver pulled over to offer assistance, leaving his truck partially blocking the road. Plaintiff was attempting to warn oncoming traffic of the unsafe situation when a motorist who was attempting to avoid colliding with the truck struck him. The jury found the truck driver liable.

    Issue. Was the truck driver negligent and his conduct the proximate cause of the Defendant’s injuries?

    Held. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment against Defendants. The Plaintiff’s attempt to warn oncoming motorists of the dangerous situation was reasonable and did not constitute contributory negligence; the Defendant’s negligence “constituted an irretrievable breach of duty.”


    Discussion. The court in Marshall addresses a number of peripheral questions in determining the scope of liability in connection with auto accidents, what the court refers to as “a variety of risks.” In so doing the court provides the framework for delineating reasonable and unreasonable risks (the latter being those that are foreseeable and thus avoidable). Again, the primary test for proximate cause focuses on whether the Defendant should have reasonably foreseen the general consequences or type of harm that could result from her conduct. Noting the often complicated circumstances surrounding a car accident, the court states, “[i]t would be impossible for a person in the defendant’s position to predict in advance just how his negligent act would work out to another’s injury.” Thus, the court concludes, “[t]he question of proximate causation is one of fact for the


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