Atlantic coast Line R. Co. v. Daniels

8 Ga. App. 775 (1911).

Not only does there need to be the “but-for” test, but there must also be proximate cause. This narrows liability even more so to ensure that the person caused the injury without any break in the chain of results.

These are arbitrary (random) limitations on liability, meaning they are limits set on a defendant who has been negligent and their negligence was a cause-in-fact for the injury but not held liable for policy and fairness reasons.

Unforeseeable Consequences

Ryan v. New York Central R.R. Co.

35 N.Y. 210 (1866).

Ryan is plaintiff. Lost in trial and appellate court.


Is the owner to the of the first burning building liable for the burning of the second building to which the fire spread?


The injury must be the immediate, not the remote result of the negligence.


This was remote, judgment affirmed.


Railroad shed caught fire, spread to the plaintiff’s house which burned down and damaged several other properties.


If we were to find that A can recover for damage, when do we draw the line? Can Z still recover? The answer is no. A person is responsible for their own actions and not for other accidental circumstances. Here, the defendant has no control over the heat, the weather, etc. that caused the fire to spread. As such, he is not liable for the damages caused to another’s property where that owner has a duty to protect themselves.

Other policy considerations should be taken into account. Who bears the damage, how much should the party be liable for?


Accidental circumstances can result in no proximate cause.

Additional Notes

The defendant’s negligence caused the fire which caused the plaintiff’s house to burn down. “But-for” test is satisfied. However, the defendant is not liable because it was too “remote” because other accidental circumstances could have influenced the fire. Additionally, there are policy considerations being taken into affect. Some policy considerations include:

  • Plaintiff is responsible for their own property and gathering insurance.
  • The railroad should not be liable for countless people who the fire could spread.

On the other hand, there is a Kansas case who puts the loss on a railroad. They can’t be reconciled if you take jurisdiction out of the equation.

Bartolone v. Jeckkovich

103 A.D.2d 632 (1984).

Plaintiff lost in trial court.


Can a defendant be liable for the aggravation of a pre-existing illness?


A defendant may be liable for the aggravation caused to a pre-existing illness.


Accident caused the aggravation, can be liable. Reversed.


There was a large accident. The plaintiff had suffered only minor physical injuries. The plaintiff a pre-existing condition of schizophrenia. This condition was mild prior to the accident but became aggravated causing the plaintiff to lose interest in all former activities and become completely disabled.


There are cases to support the reversal. Although there was a pre-existing condition, the defendant made the condition worse. He can be liable for the worsening of the condition. “He must take the plaintiff as he finds him and be held liable for damages to make him worse.”


Can be held liable for the worsening of a condition, even if that condition was not foreseeable. Most jurisdictions apply this to physical and psychological. However, a few jurisdiction remove the psyche part of the rule.

Additional Notes

These injuries were so far removed, they were not foreseeable. However, the court says that the defendant is liable. Why? The defendant is to “take the plaintiff as he finds him.” This is called the “eggshell skull” rule. This means that although the defendant does not know the weakness, an injury is caused through negligence, the defendant can be liable for any damages incurred. In other words, they can be liable for damages to somebody who may not be as physically or mentally stable as the reasonable person.

The person will also be liable for greater or lesser damages depending on who the person is (i.e. different damages to pay for a minimal wage worker vs. a doctor).

In re Arbitration Between Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd.

1921 3 K.B. 560.

Know this case by name for the final.

Plaintiff won in trial and appeal.


Can they be liable for an unexpected result?


Once an act is negligent, an unforeseen result can still find liability.


Action was negligent, the damage occurred. Liable. Judgement affirmed.


Owner of a ship employee charterers. The servants were negligent in dropping a board which caused a spark, hit the petrol cargo, exploded, and completely damaged the ship. The owner said, you need to pay for the ship.

The defendant’s argument was that they could not anticipate the extent of the damage or that the remoteness of the damage.


They can be held liable because even though the spark being caused by the dropping of the board was not foreseeable, the damage did occur. Likewise, someone could expect damage to occur from dropping a board negligently. Just because the foreseeable damage does not align, that does not preclude the defendant from being liable.


Defendant can still be liable for unforeseen consequences.

Additional Notes

The plank fell which was a negligent act. Why were they negligent in the first place? The plank could have dented the ship, hit someone else, damage to the cargo. The expected damage was not an explosion (defendant’s argument). In other words, the type of harm that was threatened by the negligence did not match up (fire is not dent).

The court says that this is argument is immaterial because there was a risk of damage. Foreseeability matters for determining whether you negligent, but it doesn’t matter for the actual consequence. Here, the damage was directly traceable to the negligent act, regardless of foreseeable or unforeseeable results (definition of proximate cause).

Steps to follow for Pelomis Analysis:

  1. Determine if there was negligence
    • Was any kind of damage foreseeable?
  2. Determine if was an injury
    • Foreseeability of consequence is immaterial.

Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co., Ltd. “Wagon Mount No. 1”

1961 A.C. 388.

Morts Dock is the plaintiff.


Can a person be liable for the damages that were not foreseen?


A person may be damages that are directly foreseen but not for those unforeseen.


Not liable.


Morts Dock owns a wharf for ship building and repairs. There was a ship waiting out to sea when an oil vat tipped and caused minimal damage to the dock. No suit was claimed because of the minimal damage (would have won). Later, the oil caught fire causing the dock to be damaged beyond repair.

The defense is that the defendant did not foresee that the damage caused by the spilling of the oil would be a fire because they did not expect it to catch, being in the water and requiring a lot of heat.


Liability should be founded not only on the act, but also the consequences. The consequence of this action was oil damage, not fire damage. Therefore, because the fire was not foreseeable, there can be no liability.

Additional Notes

Here, the expected damage was oil damage which occurred from a negligent act. The court here says that Polemis is wrong. They say that the defendant needs to know not only of the negligence, but the reasonable foreseeability of a consequence.

Steps to follow for Wagon Mount No. 1:

  1. Determine if there was negligence
    • Was any kind of damage foreseeable?
  2. Determine if there was reasonable foreseeability of the consequence.
    • The actual damage must align with the foreseeability of that damage to find liability.
  3. If so, then the a jury should be able to consider the case.

Courts are much more inclined to follow this case. The restatement (third) of torts § 29 also follows this principle:

An actor’s liability is limited to those harms that result from the risks that made the actor’s conduct [negligent].”

Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Miller Steamship Co. “Wagon Mount No. 2”

1967 1 A.C. 617

Miller is the plaintiff. Lost.


Same as Wagon Mount No. 1. Except, what degree of foreseeability do we need to have?


Same as No. 1


There was foreseeability, the there is a case. Reversed.


All the facts are the same as No. 1 except this time we have the owner of the ships damaged at the dock. Their argument was that the fire was in fact foreseeable.


The fire could be seen as foreseeable. The question here is a matter of degrees. Could a reasonable person in the capacity of the engineer have been able to foreseen a possible fire occurring? The court said yes because oil has caught fire before in the water.

Additional Notes

Wagon Mound 1 dealt with the foreseeability of the consequence and determined that fire was not a foreseeable risk. That was because the plaintiff in the first case did not want to bring fire up as an option (they were the ones dealing with fire). Here, the owners of the ships sued and made the “fire” argument. These plaintiffs aren’t bound to the holding in the previous case and they can make new arguments.

The argument presented says that fire was foreseeable. So the question now falls to was this just foreseeable or is it reasonably foreseeable? We need to do a risk benefit analysis. See Learned Hand

Some small risk of fire, but the loss would be substantial, and there would have been a minor burden to minimize the risk of fie. Here, all the person had to do not pour the oil into the water. (P * L > B)

Using this analysis, Wagon Mound was liable.

Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co.

248 N.Y. 339 (1928).

Palsgraf is the plaintiff, won in trial.


Do we hold the railroad company liable for this unforeseeable consequence.


A wrong must be directed towards a plaintiff for them to have a cause. In other words, you need negligence before proximate cause.


There was no wrong directed towards the plaintiff. No negligence, no need to address causation.


Note* these facts are in dispute.

The plaintiff was on one side of a railroad platform waiting for her train. Guards of the station on the other side of the platform (about 25 feet away) helped a person onto the train who was about to miss it. In the process he dropped a parcel wrapped in newspaper. This went along the rails before it exploded. The concussion caused damage to the platform which in turn injured the plaintiff.


The majority says that the wrong of the guards was done to the person carrying the backpack, not to the plaintiff on the other side of the platform. There was nothing in the backpack to the naked eye to inform a guard of a foreseeable risk. Therefore, the railroad company does not find that there was any negligence in regards to the plaintiff and cannot be held liable.

The dissent disagrees saying that the fact that the backpack was dropped at all was negligent. Anybody there could suffer a consequence of that negligence and the guards have a duty to protect all of them. Therefore, if the explosion caused a concussion which injured somebody, they should be liable regardless of who the original negligence occurred. The only reason why we don’t follow this rule is for policy reasons. It is clear that the dissent does not like these policy reasons.

Additional Notes

Cardozo – Majority:

There was negligence. However the negligence was directed towards the person who dropped the bag. Negligence is a term of connection. A person is negligent if they breach a duty to the person, not the whole world (“negligence in the air will not do”). This means that the question becomes? Did we breach a duty to the plaintiff. Nothing here (shuffling bag) indicates a foreseeable threat to the plaintiff.

Easy to rule this as a matter of law (summary judgment).

Andrews – Dissent

Andrews believes that the whole world is a foreseeable plaintiff. That means, any action of negligence against one person, can result in liability towards another. However, there are limits to liability. What are some things that the court should consider?

  • Natural and continuous sequence?
  • Substantial factor?
  • Direct connection without too many intervening causes?
  • Effect not too attenuated (reduction of value)?
  • Could the result be foreseen?
  • Is it too remote?

Each case is different but these facts say that one could have reasonably foreseen.

We need to ask, what is appropriate to impose civil liability? There are so many things going on here that this issue should go to the jury.

Read to 375 by Wednesday

Yun v. Ford Motor Co.

276 N.J. Super. 142 (1994).

Yun sued just about everyone possibly involved in the accident. Lost all cases (except the defendant driver who settled) for summary judgment and appealed. Ford is dropped, all others are in question. This case addresses Kim’s Auto Repair.


Was there proximate cause? Did the breaking of the tire assembly proximately cause the injuries sustained?


Proximate cause is any cause which in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces the result complained of and without the result would not have occurred.

That’s the definition, here we are focusing on the result. It must be a foreseeable consequence for it to go to the jury. a high extraordinary result can have summary judgment.


It was extraordinary enough to say, as a matter of law, that there was no proximate cause. Affirmed.


Plaintiff was driving down the highway when the spare tire assembly broke off causing the tire and parts to be spread accross the road. The plaintiff was able to safely park and a passenger got out and went to retrieve the parts. As he was returning to the car, he was hit and killed by one of the defendants.

Previous to the accident, the plaintiff had gone to Kim’s auto repair shop where the shop informed the plaintiff that the assembly needed repair. The plaintiff refused the service stating that they would have it repaired at another time.

Plaintiff sued, on behalf of the decedent’s estate, the driver, the manufacturer, the repair shop, and Ford.


The court needs to determine if there was proximate cause. The court says that the assembly did not cause their injuries. First, they chose not to repair the assembly. Second, the decedent had a flagrant disregard for personal safety.

Therefore, the courts say that there is no proximate cause because the consequence was extraordinary. That is, one can foresee an injury with the part being broken but not in the way that had occurred. He should not have crossed the road, that in and of itself was extraordinary.

The dissent disagrees. They argue that the auto repair can’t be liable because there was no negligence and that Ford can’t be liable because there was no challenge to their dismissal. But they do argue that a jury could make an argument as to why the consequence was foreseeable. Therefore, this should have gone to the jury and did not require summary judgment.

Additional Notes

Here we are trying to look at proximate cause and superseding cause. Here, there is only two potential options. There is either reasonably foreseeable (liability) or extraordinary (no liability).

Thus, there are two superseding causes. First, the extraordinary actions of the plaintiff to retrieve the tire. Second, the refusal of service to repair the assembly. The majority says that this is enough to dismiss as a matter of law.

The dissent says that it is foreseeable that the plaintiff would have gone after the tire. This is something that should go to the jury.

Risk Analysis:

What risk did we hope to avoid?

  • It could fall off. We don’t know where it may fall off and how the fall would create. One of the risks could include harm to the person who went to retrieve the parts.

Miller says that this case was poorly decided. The dissent was right. The reason why we can be confident about that is because the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the rule.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.