Tort Cases From the Past – Palsgraf

Last Monday I referred to the Palsgraf opinion and took the opportunity to re-read it.  I suggest you do the same.  The dispute between Justice Cardozo and Justice Andrews lives on.  Read this and tell me who could have written the exact same words almost 100 years later:

The proposition is this. Every one owes to the world at large the duty of refraining from those acts that may unreasonably threaten the safety of others. Such an act occurs. Not only is he wronged to whom harm might reasonably be expected to result, but he also who is in fact injured, even if he be outside what would generally be thought the danger zone. There needs be duty due the one complaining but this is not a duty to a particular individual because as to him harm might be expected.

The first couple sentences sound exactly like Chief Justice Holder’s position on the law of premises liability in Tennessee.  To be sure, she would likely draw the causation circle a little tighter than Justice Anderson, but she views the concept of duty much differently than Justices Clark, Wade and Koch (who are relying on precedent).  We don’t know where Justice Lee is on the issue yet.

In any event, here is the Palsgraf opinion.  Read and enjoy.


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