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Osborne v. Montgomery

Citation. Osborne v. Montgomery Eng’g Co., 516 U.S. 1033, 116 S. Ct. 685, 133 L. Ed. 2d 533, 64 U.S.L.W. 3416 (U.S. Dec. 11, 1995)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Osborne (Plaintiff) was injured when his bike hit Defendant’s car door. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

While acts result in injury to others, they are held not to be negligent because they are in conformity to what the great mass of mankind would do under similar circumstances.


Plaintiff, a boy of thirteen years of age, was employed as an errand boy. He was returning to his place of employment on a bicycle. He followed a car driven by Defendant. Defendant stopped his car for the purpose of leaving some clothes at the cleaners. As Defendant’s car stopped and his door opened Plaintiff attempted to pass when the right handle bar of his bicycle collided with Defendant’s car door. As a result, Plaintiff was injured. The jury found Defendant negligent, because he did not look before opening his car door, but not negligent in stopping his car where he did. The instruction of the trial judge on the definition of negligence read as follows: 1. By ordinary care, it is meant that degree of care, which the great mass of mankind, or the type of that mass, the ordinary prudent man, exercises under like or similar circumstances. 2: Negligence is the want of ordinary care. Defendant appealed.


Are all actions in our society that cause harm to others considered negligent?


No. Judgment for the Defendant. Reversed and remanded on the question of damages only.
* Not every want of care results in liability. In order to measure ordinary care, some standards must be adopted. Right, duties, obligations are relative, not absolute.
* The law determines that under the circumstances of a particular case, an actor should or should not be liable for the natural consequences of his conduct. In this case, Defendant exercised that degree of care, which drivers ordinarily exercise under the same or similar circumstances.


Not every injury is actionable. Society deems an actor liable for conduct that is outside that of ordinary care. Ordinary care is that degree of care, which under the same or similar circumstances, the great mass of mankind would ordinarily exercise.

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