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Brauer v. N.Y. Central & H.R.R. Co

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant’s train negligently ran into Plaintiff’s wagon. Thieves stole Plaintiff’s scattered belongings. Neither the driver of Plaintiff’s wagon nor two railroad detectives did anything about the thieves. Plaintiff sued Defendant for recovery including his stolen goods. Trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff and Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The act of a third person intervening contributing a condition necessary to the injurious effect of the original negligence, will not excuse the first wrongdoer, if such act ought to have been foreseen

    Facts.

    A train owned by the N.Y. Central & H.R.R. Co. (Defendant) negligently ran into Brauer’s (Plaintiff) wagon. As a result the driver of Plaintiff’s wagon was dazed and the contents of the wagon were scattered about. Thieves came along and stole the items. The driver of the Plaintiff’s wagon and two railroad detectives, who were on board of Defendant’s train, failed to do anything about the thieves.

    Issue.

    Whether the act of a third person intervening and contributing a condition necessary to the injurious effect of the original negligence excuses the first wrongdoer, if such act ought to have been foreseen.

    Held.

    No. The act of a third person intervening and contributing a condition necessary to the injurious effect of the original negligence, will not excuse the first wrongdoer, if such act ought to have been foreseen.

    Dissent.

    (Garrison, J.): Crime cannot be foreseen because “the law is directly otherwise.â€

    Therefore, the accident was not the proximate cause of the theft.

    Discussion.

    As long as the original tort is the proximate cause of the injury, the initial tortfeasor will be liable even though another action intervened. In this case, the crash and the theft were close enough in time to deem the crash (the initial tort) the proximate cause. The wagon’s driver was unable to protect the contents of the wagon because of the crash. Additionally, the theft of unguarded property was foreseeable because two detectives guarded the freight on the train.


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