Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co.

Court of Appeals of New York, 1928.

248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99.

Prosser, pp. 303-311


Facts: A guy with a box was rushing to get on a train.  One of the railroad’s employees gave him a shove, and he dropped a non-descript package which turned out to be filled with fireworks.  KERPLEWIE!  Somehow, it is alleged, the explosion knocked down a scale (like you use to weigh stuff) and hit the plaintiff.  The plaintiff sues for her injuries based on the theory that the railroad’s employee was negligent.


Issue: Is there such a thing as transferred negligence?


Rule: There must be a wrong in order for there to be liability for negligence.


Analysis: Justice Cardozo says that this is not a causation issue.


In a dissenting opinion, Justice Andrews writes that this case is really an issue of proximate cause.  He finds that the guard’s negligence actually was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.


Conclusion: The judgment of the lower courts was reversed and the plaintiff got nothing.


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