Citation. Yun v. Ford Motor Co., 276 N.J. Super. 142, 647 A.2d 841, 1994 N.J. Super.
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Brief Fact Summary.
A car struck the plaintiff’s father when he attempted to retrieve a spare tire and support brackets from the highway after they had fallen off.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
An intervening cause, which is an unforeseeable or extraordinary event, breaks the chain of causation.
The plaintiff was driving her van when the spare tire came loose from its holding and came off of the van. The plaintiff and her father Chang, who was a passenger, stopped the van when they heard the tire come off. Chang got out and crossed the highway to retrieve the tire and other parts of the support bracket. On his way back to the van Chang was hit by a car and killed.
Whether the decedent’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable or if it was so out of the ordinary that it broke the chain of causation.
The decedent’s actions where senseless and liability for his injuries should not attach.
The issues of proximate cause and intervening cause should be left to the jury for factual determination. In cases where reasonable persons may differ the issue should go to the jury. A jury might find that it was reasonably foreseeable that the tire would dislodge and fall onto the roadway while the van was in operation and that someone might try to retrieve those parts.
* Proximate cause is any cause that in the continuous sequence, unbroken by an intervening cause, produces the resultant injury and without which injury would not have occurred.
* The defect in the spare tire did not cause Chang’s injuries, the injury occurred after he recklessly crossed the highway. The spare tire created circumstances upon which the subsequent intervening negligence occurred, but there was no proximate cause between the defect in the product and the injury.
* The manufacture of the spare tire holder is also not responsible for the decedent’s injuries. The facts show that the plaintiff and Chang had the opportunity to fix the holder thirty days before the accident occurred.
* As a matter of public policy, the court can decide the issue of proximate cause, which is usually reserved for the trier of fact, when the injury is so extraordinary that it cannot be an expected result. This is such a case as the harm caused to the plaintiff is so unexpected.