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Buch v. Amory Manufacturing Co

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, who was eight-years-old, trespassed in Defendant’s mill. Plaintiff’s hand was crushed in a machine.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An owner of land owes a trespasser a duty to abstain from any other or further intentional or negligent acts of personal violence. Owners are not bound to warn trespassers of hidden or secret dangers.

    Facts. Plaintiff trespassed in Defendant’s mill when weaving machinery was in operation. An overseer told him to leave. The running machinery presented an obvious hazard to a child of Plaintiff’s age. Plaintiff’s hand was crushed in a machine that his brother, aged 13, an employee, was trying to teach him to run. The trial court denied a motion for a directed verdict. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Assuming that Plaintiff was incapable either of appreciating the danger or of exercising the care necessary to avoid it, is he entitled to recover?

    Held. No. Judgment reversed.
    * Plaintiff was a trespasser in a place, which was dangerous to children of his age. In the conduct of their business and machinery, Defendants were without fault. The only negligence alleged, is that Defendant could not make Plaintiff understand a command to leave, and they did not forcibly eject him. Actionable negligence is the neglect of legal duty. Defendants are not liable unless they owed Plaintiff a legal duty.
    * An owner of land owes a trespasser a duty to abstain from any other or further intentional or negligent acts of personal violence. Owners are not bound to warn trespassers of hidden or secret dangers. Owners may eject trespassers. If owners do nothing, leave a trespasser entirely alone, in no manner interfere with him, the trespasser can have no cause of action against the owner for any injury that he may receive. On the contrary, the trespasser is liable for any damage that he by his unlawful meddling may cause them or their property.
    * There is no distinction between an adult trespasser or child trespasser for purposes of this case.
    * The duty to do no wrong is a legal duty. The duty to protect against a wrong is a moral obligation only, not recognized or enforced by law.

    Discussion. In this case, Plaintiff is characterized as a trespasser and as such, Defendant breached no duty of care owed to him.



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