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Trimarco v. Klein

Citation. 56 N.Y. 2d 98, 436 N.E.2d 502 (1982)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff is the tenant of an apartment owned by defendant. One day, plaintiff was injured by the shattered glass door in the bathroom while he was sliding it. Plaintiff alleged that defendant was negligence for not replacing the door with shatterproof safety glass.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A party is liable for negligence when their failure to follow an accepted custom and that this departure is the proximate cause of an injury.


Plaintiff was a tenant of defendant. The glass door of the apartment’s bathtub shattered while plaintiff was sliding the door, and caused plaintiff severe injury. Plaintiff assumed that the door was made of shatterproof safety glass. Plaintiff alleged that defendat was negligence in not using shatterproof safety glass. At trial, the plaintiff brought an expert witness who testified that since the 1950’s using shatterproof glass became common to use. By 1976 when the accident occurred, the glass door no longer conformed to accepted safety standards.


Was the defendant negligent for not replacing safety glass absent notice of the danger from plaintiff or similar accidents in the building?


Yes. The Court reversed the ordered a new trial.


When proof of an accepted practice is accompanied by evidence that the defendant should conform to, this may establish aduty of care. And when such proof is coupled with defendant’s ignorance or departure from the custom is the proximate cause of the accident, defendant may be liable. This Court explaiend that when prove defendant’s liability, the quintessential test is if defendant’s conduct was resonable under the specific circumstance. Proof of the existence of a common practice helps to prove the general expectation of society as to how individuals will act in the course of their undertakings under certain circumstances.

The Court also noted that the proof of common practice is not necessarily a conclusive test of negligence, because the jury still needs to find it it was reasonable to follow or unreasonable to not follow the custom under the particular circumstance.

In this case, much evidence including the expert testimony, the admissions of the apartment manager, how local building industry practiced, prove that an accepted custom was present. The jury should decide, considering these evidence and the growing custom of using safety glass, whether defendant was being reasonable in this case.

Nonetheless, the court reversed and remanded becasue the trial judge erronesouly permitted the jury to consider a safety statute that should not be applicable in this case retroactively.

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