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Summers v. Tice

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Brief Fact Summary.

A man was shot but it was impossible to tell which of two people did it.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In addition to that, however, it should be pointed out that the same reasons of policy and justice shift the burden to each of defendants to absolve himself if he can--relieving the wronged person of the duty of apportioning the injury to a particular defendant, apply here where we are concerned with whether plaintiff is required to supply evidence for the apportionment of damages.

View Full Point of Law

The plaintiff was teaching the defendants how to hunt quail with shotguns.  Beforehand, he had warned them of the dangers involved, the safety precautions they needed to take, and the care they needed to exercise.  While hunting, he walked away from them so they formed a triangle.  As he did, he rustled up a quail, which flew between the plaintiff and the defendants.  Both defendants shot at the quail, and the plaintiff was hit with two bird-shot pellets, one in the eye, one in the lip.


Are both defendants liable when it cannot be determined which (or both) of them actually shot the plaintiff?


Yes, when multiple people’s negligence could have been the proximate cause, then they bear the burden of proving that they were entirely not responsible.


The court finds that both defendants were negligent, and both shots taken were the proximate case of the plaintiffs injuries.  The court reasons that the negligence on the part of the defendants is sufficient to place the burden on them to prove their negligent acts did not cause the harm to the plaintiff.

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