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Dillon v. Twin State Gas & Electric Co

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Dillon (Plaintiff), sued as the administrator of decedent’s estate. Decedent was electrocuted when he lost his balance on a bridge and grabbed a live wire maintained by the Defendant, Twin State Gas & Electric Co. Defendant claims exception for a denial of its motion for a directed verdict based on a lack of damages.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A jury must determine if damages are available when a decedent is killed by the negligence of defendant, but decedent would have died or been seriously injured regardless of the negligence.

    Facts. This action is for negligently causing the death of Plaintiff’s intestate, a 14 year old boy. The Defendant maintained electrical wires over a public bridge. The decedent and friends often played on the bridge during the day. On one such occasion, the decedent lost his balance while sitting on a horizontal girder and instinctively grabbed a hanging wire. The wire was not insulated against contact and electrocuted the decedent. The Defendant claims exception for a denial of its motion for a directed verdict based on damages.

    Issue. Should a motion for directed verdict based on failure to claim damages be upheld when the injury caused by defendant in all likelihood only shortened decedent’s life by a matter of moments?

    Held. No. Exception overruled.
    * Defendant had no duty to protect decedent from falling. Its only liability was in exposing decedent to the danger of the exposed wires. It is beyond a doubt that if decedent had not touched the wires, he would have either been killed or seriously injured.
    * If decedent would have died from the fall, Defendant deprived him of a life expectancy too short to be given pecuniary damages. The Defendant would have been liable only for any conscious suffering found to have been the result of the shock. If decedent would have been seriously injured from the fall, Defendant would be liable only for the limited earning capacity available to decedent as a result of his injuries. This determination is an issue of fact that must be determined by the jury.

    Discussion. The Court also held that the Defendant owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to the decedent and that the question of the Defendant’s negligence was for the j


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