Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad Co  248 NY 339
The elements that must be satisfied in order to bring a claim in negligence (note that this is a US case)
The claimant was standing on a station platform purchasing a ticket. Whilst she was doing so a train stopped in the station and two men ran to catch it. One of the men tripped and whilst attempting to help the fallen man, members of the railway staff caused a box of fireworks to fall and the fireworks to explode. The explosion caused a set of scales to fall at the other end of the platform which in turn injured the claimant. The court at first instance found in favour of the claimant, and the judgment was affirmed on appeal. The defendant appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The issue in this context appears to relate to the notion of remoteness of damage in an English law context, although it is stated as setting out the elements necessary for a claim in negligence to be brought.
It was held that the defendant was not liable to the claimant. In this respect, it was held that a claimant must, in order to bring a claim in negligence, demonstrate that there has been some violation of her personal rights. Whilst it was acknowledged that the guards who caused the package of fireworks to fall were negligent in doing so, it was not considered that they were negligent to the claimant. There was no indication that the content of the package was fireworks or that dropping it would cause it to explode. Furthermore, the claimant was standing some distance away from the package. Therefore, it was considered that if the defendant was held liable to the claimant in these circumstances, a defendant would be liable in any circumstance for almost any loss.
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