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Ploof v. Putnam

    Citation. Ploof v. Putnam, 83 Vt. 494, 76 A. 145, 1910 Vt. LEXIS 220 (Vt. 1910)

    Brief Fact Summary. To escape a storm, Ploof (Plaintiff) tied his boat to Putnam’s (Defendant’s) dock. Defendant untied Plaintiff’s boat. Plaintiff and his family were injured and the boat was destroyed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Necessity will justify entries upon land and interferences with personal property that would otherwise have been trespass.


    Facts. Defendant owned a dock. Defendant’s servant was in charge of the dock when Plaintiff and his family were sailing. A storm arose and Plaintiff was forced to tie his boat to Defendant’s dock. Defendant’s servant untied Plaintiff’s boat. Plaintiff and his family were injured and the boat was destroyed. Plaintiff sued in trespass, claiming that it was Defendant’s servant’s duty to allow Plaintiff to tie his boat to Defendant’s dock. The trial court ruled for Plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Is Defendant permitted to untie Plaintiff’s boat when Plaintiff tied his boat to Defendant’s dock out of necessity?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed and cause remanded.
    * Necessity will justify entries upon land and interferences with personal property that would otherwise have been trespass. The court gave a few illustrations to illustrate the doctrine of necessity:
    * A traveler on a highway, who finds it obstructed from a sudden and temporary cause, may pass upon the adjoining land without becoming a trespasser, because of necessity. Entry upon land to save goods, which are in danger of being lost or destroyed, is not a trespass.
    * Necessity applies with special force to the preservation of human life. One assaulted and in peril of his life may run through the land of another to escape from his assailant. One may sacrifice the personal property of another to save his life or the lives of his fellows.
    * In this case, Plaintiff entered the land of Defendant in effort to escape the storm and avoid injury. Defendant claims that Plaintiff could have tied his boat to natural objects with equal safety. However, the facts show that Plaintiff tied his boat to Defendant’s dock to save the boat and the people in it. The requirements of the claim for necessity are complete. Yet, the rule of necessity cannot be held applicable irrespective of circumstances. The question of circumstances and natural objects is left for adjudication.

    Discussion. This case is a commonly cited example of private necessity. Plaintiff has the privilege of private necessity. He tied his boat to Defendant’s dock to avoid injury to himself, his family, and his property. Plaintiff is privileged to enter Defendant’s land under the doctrine of private necessity.


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