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Summers v. Tice

Citation. 199 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1948)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Summers (Plaintiff) was shot by either Tice (Defendant) or his co-defendant while hunting, but cannot know which one.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Where only one of multiple defendants could have caused plaintiff’s injury, all defendants may be held liable and have the burden of proving they were not the one who committed the act.


Summers (Plaintiff) and Tice (Defendant) and his co-defendant were all hunting together. Both Defendants had 12-gauge shotguns. The three were standing in a triangle formation. Defendants shot at a quail at the same time, but Plaintiff was struck by one of the shots.


Where a plaintiff cannot know which of multiple defendants actually committed an act, can all defendants be held liable for negligence?


Yes, the Court held multiple defendants can be held liable.


The Court said that each Defendant has the responsibility to defend themselves in a situation where they are the only ones who can know who caused the harm. Forcing Plaintiff to pick which caused the harm could allow both to escape liability. Regardless of whether Defendants acted together or independently, both can be liable for negligence.

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