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Marshall v. Nugent

Citation. 222 F.2d 604 (1st Cir. 1955)
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Brief Fact Summary.

After his son-in-law was run off the road by the defendant oil company’s truck, the plaintiff tried to warn oncoming traffic of the dangerous collision up ahead. The defendant Nugent, trying to avoid the truck and the son-in-law’s car, lost control of his car and hit the plaintiff.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

When a negligent act is not remote in time or space from an injury, it is reasonable for a jury to find proximate cause and thus liability.


A truck owned by the defendant oil company cut a corner going around a sharp and icy curve on the highway, forcing the plaintiff’s son-in-law Harriman off the road. The driver of the truck offered to help pull Harriman’s car back onto the road and suggested that the plaintiff go around the curve to warn oncoming traffic of the danger. As the plaintiff was getting into position on the road, defendant Nugent, driving northbound, saw the oil truck on one side of the road and Harriman and the truck driver on the other, and he attempted to avoid collision on either side. He tried to pull over, but he lost control of the car on the ice and hit the rail on the highway, glanced off, and hit the plaintiff, severely injuring him.


Is the defendant oil company liable for the plaintiff’s injury due to the conduct of its truck driver?


Yes. The trial court did not err in allowing the jury to determine proximate cause and ultimately rule for the plaintiff. The trial court ruling is affirmed.


The court here believes that the theory of proximate cause does not require the negligent act in question to have been the direct or immediate cause of the injury. While the court recognizes foreseeability of harm to be the primary test of proximate cause, it also recognizes some measure of flexibility built into the doctrine through the defining of risk. Especially in the case of a negligent car accident, the variety of foreseeable risk has the potential to be vast. It would be impossible for a defendant to prove in advance how his negligent act would cause another’s injury, but this should not bar an injured party from recovery. The consequences of the truck driver’s negligent actions did not end with the collision—rather, the extra risks created by the collision directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If not for the initial crash, the plaintiff would not have been in a position to be hit by Nugent’s car.

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