Appellate Court Discusses Foreseeability in Recent Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that required the court to discuss the foreseeability element of the plaintiff’s claim and determine if the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s alleged negligence. Ultimately, in the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence and allowed the plaintiff’s case to continue toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the surviving husband of a woman who was struck and killed by a passing car while she was attempting to rescue an escaped calf belonging to the defendant. After his wife’s death, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the driver of the car that struck his wife as well as the farm that owned the calf. Specific to the farm owner, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligence in allowing the calf to escape and failing to return it to the farm was a proximate cause of his wife’s death.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the farm owner sought dismissal of the case against him on the basis that any alleged negligence in allowing the calf to escape was too remote a cause of death to establish liability. The trial court disagreed, denying the motion.

The Case Is Appealed and Initially Reversed

On the defendant’s appeal, the case was reversed. The intermediate appellate court determined that the alleged negligence of the defendant “merely furnished the occasion for, but did not cause” the plaintiff’s wife to enter the roadway where she was struck and killed.

The Case Is Reversed Again on a Second Appeal

The plaintiff appealed the intermediate appellate court’s ruling and was successful in getting the case reversed. The court began by explaining that establishing a party’s negligence is not enough to succeed in a personal injury case; there must be a link between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries. This link is tested through the lens of foreseeability. In other words, if the defendant’s actions could foreseeably cause the plaintiff’s injuries, liability may be appropriate, and the case should be submitted to a jury.

Here, the court explained that an escaped farm animal that makes it onto a public road could foreseeably cause an accident. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s wife’s decision to pull over to the side of the road, exit her vehicle, and attempt to rescue the animal was an intervening cause that should act to sever the chain of causation. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

Car accidents come in many forms, some more common than others. However, just because an accident seems unusual or involves several parties does not mean that the injured party should not be compensated for their loss. If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from one or more parties. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have experience handling all types of personal injury claims, and we know how to be successful for their clients. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case against Apartment Complex Not Barred by Immunity Statute, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 15, 2016.

Plaintiff Unsuccessful in Car Accident Case Due to Failure to Establish Causation, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 2, 2017.

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