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Marshall v. Nugent

Citation. 222 F.2d 604 (1st Cir. 1955)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff was traveling in a car and was involved in a car accident. The truck driver, who almost caused the collision, stopped the truck on the road and offered to help push plaintiff’s car back to the road. To warn oncoming vehicles about the accident, plaintiff went up the hill. Defendant was driving another car on the road. To avoid hitting the truck, defendant went into a skid and hit plaintiff.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The primary test for proximate cause focuses on whether the nature and circumstances of the particular harm foreseeable?


Plaintiff was a passenger of a car that went off the road due to an approaching truck that tried to invade their lane. The truck driver stopped the truck on the road and offered to help plaintiff and the driver pull the car back onto the road. As the truck was stopping on the road and blocking traffic, plaintiff volunteered to walk up the hill to warn oncoming traffic of the danger in the road. Meanwhile, defendant was driving and approaching with his car. To avoid hitting the truck, defendant steered away and hit plaintiff.


Was defendant’s negligence the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injury?


The judgment of the District Court is affirmed.


The key issue in this appeal is the scope of proximate cause. As the Court explained, generally, to confine the liability of a negligent actor to those harmful consequences which result from the operation of the risk, the test for proximate cause is foreseeability. Many cases have held that a negligent defendant causing a traffic tie-up, might be legally liable for subsequent property damage or personal injuries more immediately caused by an oncoming motorist. However, in this case, it would be impossible for defendant to predict in advance how his negligent act would injure plaintiff.

The Court reasoned that when an issue of proximate cause arises in a borderline case, it should be the jury to make determinations, as the prevalent sense of the community would be the best way to understand if certain acts under specific circumstances would be reasonable, if certain risks were foreseeable if there was the causal relationship between the negligent act and the plaintiff’s harm.

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