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Ney v. Yellow Cab Co

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Yellow Cab Co.’s (Defendant), cab was stolen from the street side where its driver had left it running, unlocked and unattended. While driving the stolen cab, the thief struck and damaged the Plaintiff, Ney’s (Plaintiff) vehicle.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. If the harm resulting from negligence is foreseeable, then an intervening criminal act does not break the chain of causation.

    Facts. A cab driver, working for the Defendant, left his cab parked with the ignition running and the car unlocked. A thief stole the vehicle and while fleeing the scene, struck and damaged the Plaintiff’s car. By leaving the car running and unlocked on the street, the Defendant’s driver violated a section of the Uniform Traffic Act.

    Issue. Whether the legislative intent of the Uniform Traffic Act was to protect persons in the Plaintiff’s class from the type of property damage caused by the violation.

    Held. The statute is a public safety measure meant to protect the public from the foreseeable harm caused by leaving an unlocked, running car, unattended. A violation of that statute is evidence of negligence per se.

    Dissent. The legislative intent was to prevent injury caused by an unattended vehicle that is not properly secured from moving on its own and doing damage. The statue is not an antitheft statute. It is recognized that one can leave a vehicle unattended temporarily and not be negligent as long as one takes proper precautions to secure the car from uncontrolled movement. If that car is then set in motion by the willful and negligent act of a third party, then it is the third party’s negligence that is the proximate cause of the injury resulting.

    Discussion. It is foreseeable that if you leave your car unlocked and running on the curb, a thief might take it and in doing so cause damage. Since the legislative intent of the statute was to protect the public and the act of the Defendant’s driver put the public at risk, then the risk is the type of foreseeable harm that the legislature intended to prevent and the Defendant is liable.


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