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Petitions of the Kinsman Transit Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Due to the very cold weather, the Shiras, a vessel that was fixed on a dock of a river, drifted into the river, which resulted in multiple injuries to individuals and property. Plaintiff brought suit against all defendants.The court held that Kinsman and Continental equally liable for damages to the Tewksbury and Druckenmiller. Kinsman, Continental, and the City were found to be jointly and severally liable for injuries. Midland was exonerated. Six appeals followed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When one breaches a duty of care and risks the creation of a foreseeable injury, one’s liability is not limited because the actual resulting was different in manner and extent than one expected.

    Facts.

    On January 21, 1959, there was thaw and rain followed very cold weather, causing the Buffalo River to swell and chunks of ice to propel downstream. In the winter, many vessels were permanently fixed in the river. Those vessels did not have any power. The MacGilvray Shiras, a vessel owned by the Kinsman Transit Co. (Kinsman) was fixed at a dock operated by Continental Grain Company (Continental) about three miles upstream from the Michigan Avenue Bridge (Bridge) in the City of Buffalo (City). The Shiraswas position in a manner that would allow ice and debris to amass between its stem and the riverbank. None of the anchors were placed. At approximately 10 p.m., the accumulation of ice and the pressure of the current caused Shirasfixed lines to fail. An improperly constructed “deadman,” to which one of the cables was attached, was displaced from the ground. At approximately 10:40 p.m., the Shiras floated into the current. At approximately 10:43 p.m., the City was notified that the Shiras was adrift. At approximately 11:00 p.m., the Shiras ran into the Michael K. Tewksbury, a vessel owned by Midland Steamship Line, Inc. (Midland), resulting in the unmooring of Tewksbury. Tewksbury then collided into the Druckenmiller and continued downstream. At approximately 11:08 p.m., a watchman that was overseeing the Tewksbury called the Cityand requested that it be raised, a process very short procedure, about two minutes. At approximately 11:17 p.m., the Tewksbury crashed into the Bridge, which was being raised at that moment. Due to the collision, the Bridge’s south tower dropped. The Tewksbury then grounded and the Shiras struck it, with the vessels and Bridge wreckage,causing the river to be dammed. Subsequently, the Bridge’s north tower collapsed. Due to the preceding events, two Bridge employees were injured, there was considerable flooding, property damage extended nearly three miles upstream. Thereafter, many injured parties (Plaintiffs) brought suit and cross claimed against Kinsman, Continental, Midland, and the City, and the cases were consolidated for trial to a federal district court. The court held that Kinsman and Continental equally liable for damages to the Tewksbury and Druckenmiller. Kinsman, Continental, and the City were found to be jointly and severally liable for injuries. Midland was exonerated. Six appeals followed.

    Issue.

    Whether one breaches a duty of care and risks the creation of a foreseeable injury, one’s liability is not limited because the actual resulting was different in manner and extent than one expected.

    Held.

    Yes, one breaches a duty of care and risks the creation of a foreseeable injury, one’s liability is not limited because the actual resulting was different in manner and extent than one expected.

    Dissent.

    The majority properly apportioned the liability for Kinsman, Continental, and the City in regards to the harm to the City and to the damaged vessels. However, the court improperly goes too far by ensuing liability to those entities for upstream property damage caused by flooding because the damage was not foreseeable.

    Discussion.

    The court properly held that Kinsman, Continental, and the City were liable for injuries suffered by plaintiffs, even to the extent that such injuries were not specifically foreseeable. Eachdefendant breached a duty of care owed to Plaintiff. First, Kinsman and Continental failed to properly anchor the Shiras. Second, the City failed to timely raise the Bridge to avoid collision. Additionally, merely because the extend of the harm occurred by reason of the City’s failure to timely raise the bridge does not rid Kinsman and Continental from liability When one breaches a duty of care and risks the creation of a foreseeable injury, one’s liability is not limited because the actual resulting was different in manner and extent than one expected. Thus, dividing liability among the City, Kinsman, and Continental is just and reasonable. Kinsman and Continental instigated the ultimate harm. In regards to the City, it is more reasonable that taxpayers share the cost of damages than compel innocent parties to incur such costs. Therefore, the decision below is affirmed with appropriate modifications.


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