A few weeks ago, an appellate court in New York issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case discussing the ever-present element of foreseeability in personal injury cases. In the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court ended up agreeing with the trial judge that the plaintiff’s wife’s death was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant farm owner’s negligence in allowing an animal to escape.
The plaintiff in this case is the husband of a woman who was struck and killed by a passing car as she tried to help an escaped farm animal that had wandered onto the road. After his wife’s death, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the car that struck his wife as well as the owner of the escaped animal. This opinion deals with the question of whether the farm owner’s alleged negligence in failing to properly maintain a fence to secure the animal could foreseeably have caused the death of the plaintiff’s wife.
The trial judge initially denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, but that decision was reversed on appeal to the intermediate appellate court. That court held that the defendant’s alleged negligence “merely furnished the occasion for, but did not cause, [the plaintiff’s wife] to enter the roadway, where she was struck.” The plaintiff appealed to the state’s highest court.