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Butterfield v. Forrester

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Butterfield v. Forrester
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    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff was thrown off his horse and injured after he struck a pole. Defendant had put the pole across part of the road for the purpose of making some repairs to his house. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Plaintiff cannot recover for hitting an obstruction caused by the fault of Defendant if Plaintiff did not himself use common and ordinary care to avoid the obstruction.

    Facts. Plaintiff was riding in town and there was just enough light left to discern the obstruction within 100 yards. A witness testified that if Plaintiff had not been riding very hard he might have observed and avoided the pole. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. The trial court directed the jury that if Plaintiff was riding along the street extremely hard, and without ordinary care, they should find a verdict for Defendant. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant and Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. Is Plaintiff permitted to recover for injuries sustained by Defendant’s negligence, if Plaintiff was also negligent?

    Held. No. Verdict affirmed.
    * (Justice Bayley) If Plaintiff had used ordinary care, then he would have seen the obstruction. The accident was entirely Plaintiff’s fault.
    Concurrence. (Chief Justice Lord Ellenborough) Plaintiff cannot recover for hitting an obstruction caused by the fault of Defendant, if Plaintiff did use common and ordinary care to avoid the obstruction. One person’s fault will not dispense with Plaintiff’s duty to use ordinary care. For Plaintiff to recover two things must occur: (1) an obstruction in the road by the fault of Defendant; and (2) no want of ordinary care to avoid it on the part of Plaintiff.

    Discussion. This case introduces the student to contributory negligence. Because Plaintiff was negligent in failing to ride his horse with ordinary care, he is not permitted to recover for his injuries. Plaintiff’s contributory negligence caused the accident. Defendant was negligent, but there would not have been an accident had Plaintiff exercised ordinary care. Contributory negligence prevents Plaintiff from recovering from Defendant.


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