Today marks exactly one year to the day that I first started writing the ‘voluminous’ Case Law Compendium: U.S. Law, and its pretty incredible to think that so much time has already passed, particularly given that I’m not even midway through the book yet!
Anyway, needless to say my hard work continues on undaunted, and I’m hoping to share the first half of the criminal law section here in the next couple of weeks, so watch this space if you’re interested to learn more…
Having recently completed this preliminary chapter of the book, I have provided a list of the cases covered in the Civil Procedure section for those that might be mildly curious. I would also add that it’s been a genuine pleasure reading and analysing these cases, all of which have helped educate me as to the intricate nature of State and federal legalities, and I can only hope the readers will take as much pleasure in their reading, as I have in their writing.
Today marks the commencement of my writing ‘The Case Law Compendium: U.S. Law’, the second instalment of ‘The Black Letter’ series of books, and my excitement is quietly simmering away as I begin preparing for the months ahead.
This compendium covers the principle law modules offered within leading U.S. universities and Law Schools at Juris Doctor level, and will therefore include civil procedure, constitutional law, contract law, criminal law, property law and tort law. While I appreciate there has been a shift towards comparative and international law, particularly within educational institutions such as Harvard University, when similarly examining both Stanford and Yale, there appears an inclination to adhere to the core fields as shown above, hence I have decided to remain true to that ethos for simplicity’s sake.
While consciously adopting a linear approach, I aim to include around 385 case studies – well over twice the number found in ‘The Case Law Compendium: English & European Law’, and although there is perhaps obvious reason for this, particularly given the size and legal structure of American jurisdiction, I feel the end result will provide law students with more than sufficient insight into the mechanics of notable U.S. case law.
On a personal note, I am very much looking forward to this journey, and estimate that the book should be finished and available for purchase around early spring of 2019, adding that I will consciously try to publish new case studies to this website where time permits.
In closing, I would like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to those of you who purchased my first book (or plan to soon) and I sincerely hope that my efforts have been of valued assistance when working towards your chosen vocations.
The amendment of pleadings is an American civil right when free from the misdirection of a jury, and so on this occasion the intermingling of two events resulting in the destruction of property, allowed the claimant to establish reasonable causation before enjoying the benefits of restorative justice.
In August of 1918, it was alleged that sparks emitted from a locomotive engine owned by the defendants caused a bog fire that while unextinguished, continued to burn for an extended period, largely due to the usual drought conditions at the time. During early October, there were winds in excess of 75 miles per hour, which exacerbated the existing fire, while driving it towards the home of the claimant.
It was the subsequent effects of this natural occurrence that left the claimant’s home damaged and thus both the railway company and the Director General of Railroads ended up in the courts as co-defendants, as was permissible under § 10 of the Federal Control Act.
During the trial, there were two options open to the jury for a safe conviction, namely:
“If plaintiff was burned out by fire set by one of defendant’s engines in combination with some other fire not set by one of its engines, then it is liable.”
“If the bog fire was set by one of defendant’s engines, and if one of defendant’s engines also set a fire or fires west of Kettle River, and those fires combined and burned over plaintiff’s property, then the defendant is liable.”
With confusion as to how best to approach the claim, the jury asked for confirmation as to whether liability could be found if it was agreed that the fire caused by the locomotive engine was significant enough to have been the primary contributor to the eventual fire that caused the damage, at which point the court agreed that it would. It was then that the claimant amended his pleading to one where both fires had been the sole cause of destruction to his home, as opposed to that of the bog fire alone.
While returning a verdict in favour of the claimant, the defendants argued that such pleading allowances were unlawful, before appealing to the St. Louis District Court, who denied a motion for a retrial, while allowing for the consideration of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Here consideration was given to both the discretion of the courts to allow for claim amendments, and the extent to which the Director General of Railroads is lawfully implicated. In the first instance, the Court explained how § 7784 of Ch. 77 of the Minnesota Statutes 1913 noted that:
“No variance between the allegations in the pleading and the proof is material unless it has actually misled the adverse party to his prejudice in maintaining his action or defence on the merits.”
Which on this occasion the court had already established which fires were attributable to the defendants, and at no point had any objection or evidence been shown to prove otherwise, while under § 4426 of Ch. 28 of the Minnesota Statutes 1913 also made it clear that:
“Each railroad corporation owning or operating a railroad in this state shall be responsible in damages to every person and corporation whose property may be injured or destroyed by fire communicated directly or indirectly by the locomotive engines in use upon the railroad owned or operated by such railroad corporation…”
It was further held that within the terms of the Transportation Act of 1920, Congress conferred no express limitations as to the powers of the Federal Control Act, and that evidence of this was available under §§ 202 and 206 of the amended statute, and so it was that for these reasons the Court refused to reverse the original decision and dismissed the appeal.
Manufacturer negligence and the powers of consumer statute are both central to a claim for damages, when a leading retailer is held liable for a loss of earnings through serious physical injury.
In 1990, the respondent’s eye was struck by an elasticated strap forming part of a foot warmer product known as ‘Cosytoes’, which was manufactured under the store’s own brand range. The extent of the damage was unknown at the time, however over the period that followed, the respondent was diagnosed with shallow temporal half-detachment of the retina, which in turn led to virtual blindness and total lack of central vision.
Some ten years later, the respondent sought damages under negligence, and through the powers afforded them under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. In defence, the appellants relied upon the investigative report of a highly qualified consultant engineer, whose notes confirmed:
“I conclude that in 1990 no manufacturer of child care products could reasonably have been expected to have recognised that elastic attachment straps for a cosytoes could pose a hazard to the eyes of children or adults, since the potential risk had not at that time been recognised even by experts in the safety of such childcare products.”
However, the engineer also stressed that:
“I found that for me it was quite easy to fasten the straps correctly from behind the seat unit. Attempting this from the front of the seat was more difficult, because it was not possible to see the fastening. It also required putting my head close to the seat in order for my arms to reach round behind it. I noticed that the elastic did have a tendency to pull the fastener through my fingers, and it could easily have slipped.”
Contrastingly, when transposing the requirements of the 1987 Act, Parliament was obliged to observe the terms of Directive 85/374/EEC in which the preamble outlined:
“Whereas, to protect the physical well-being and property of the consumer, the defectiveness of the product should be determined by reference not to its fitness for use but to the lack of the safety which the public at large is entitled to expect; whereas the safety is assessed by excluding any misuse of the product not reasonable under the circumstances…
[W]hereas a fair apportionment of risk between the injured person and the producer implies that the producer should be able to free himself from liability if he furnishes proof as to the existence of certain exonerating circumstances…”
In the first hearing, the judge found in favour of the respondent on grounds that embraced both manufacturer negligence and the presence of a defect, as described in s.2(1) of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, which reads:
“(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, there is a defect in a product for the purposes of this Part if the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect; and for those purposes safety, in relation to a product, shall include safety with respect to products comprised in that product and safety in the context of risks of damage to property, as well as in the context of risks of death or personal injury.”
Upon appeal, the Court reexamined the previous decision, and revisited the argument that what was evidentially unsafe in 2000 was not deemed harmful in 1990, in light of there being no recorded incidents of that nature upon which to rely at the time. With reference again to the consultant engineer’s notes, the Court emphasised how he had also stated:
“I conclude that I should have to advise anyone manufacturing such a cosytoes today that the product would have a safety defect unless the potential risk of injury (to the eyes of a child in the pushchair or the person fitting it) was either eliminated by design or that consumers were warned of the possible risks and how to avoid them. Such advice to consumers would need to include instructions for fitting the cosytoes that avoided the obvious difficulties that Mr Abouzaid and his mother were having prior to the accident.”
And that despite a lack of recorded industry data with which to determine the safety of the product, there was little to explain how consumer awareness had remained static over the preceding decade, with particular reference drawn again to s.5.1.2 of his report, which itself remarked:
“[T]he level of safety that consumers can reasonably expect is not necessarily a constant, but will rise over time in small steps, if the state of industry knowledge of hazards and their prevention improves.”
It was for these reasons that the Court agreed with the essence of the earlier judge’s findings, and that the level of damages awarded were an accurate representation of the loss suffered through such a simple error in quality control and user protection.
Proximity and lack of foreseeability, prevent this tragic claim for damages when a grieving husband argues that the owners of a minibus are liable for the death of his wife.
In 1988, a minibus owned and driven by bus company staff, was left parked and unlocked with the keys in the ignition, in the lay by of a nearby public house. It was considered normal practice for the drivers of these vehicles to leave them there in that state, as literally minutes later, it would typically be collected and driven by a replacement driver.
On this occasion, the replacement driver failed to turn up for work due to illness, which left the bus unlocked and clearly vulnerable to theft. During the time between the driver leaving the minibus and the accident taking place, the original driver had noticed it had not been taken as expected, and promptly notified his employers. At 11.15pm that evening, an unknown person took the minibus, and shortly afterwards ran down and killed the appellant’s wife as she was out cycling. This led to action being taken against the bus company, on grounds of breach of duty of care, negligence and foreseeability.
In the first instance, the court dismissed the claim, whereupon the appellant claimed the judge erred in law on three grounds, namely (i) judging the claim unreasonable, (ii) holding that the facts fell outside the scope of award for duty of care, and (iii) not finding the respondents liable for the victim’s death.
In Smith v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd, it was cited by Goff LJ that:
“[E]ven though A is in fault, he is not responsible for injury to C which B, a stranger to him, deliberately chooses to do . . . [that] may be read as expressing the general idea that the voluntary act of another, independent of the defender’s fault, is regarded as a novus actus interveniens which, to use the old metaphor, ‘breaks the chain of causation.’”
While in Denton v United Counties Omnibus Co, the court agreed that although an omnibus belonging to the defendants was stolen from an unsecured storage yard before bring driven into the claimant’s car, there was insufficient proximity between the owners, and the party liable for the accident to warrant any duty of care.
This translated that the thief and alleged joy-rider, was clearly in no position to consider the danger his actions posed, and irrespective of whether his identity could be established, and unfortunate as it was to have had his wife killed for no reason, a claim of negligence could not reasonably stand, on grounds of proximity and lack of foreseeability, thus the Court dismissed the appeal while holding that:
“[T]here was in the circumstances of this case a relationship of proximity between the defendants and Mrs. Topp. But I entirely agree with the judge that no duty of care is shown either in principle or having regard to the authority of this court…”
To read about this case in greater depth, and with the benefit of full OSCOLA referencing, simply purchase a copy of ‘The Case Law Compendium: English & European Law’ from leading booksellers around the world.
Where can I buy it?
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I cannot emphasise enough just how invaluable this book will become to you as your law course progresses, and you’ll be surprised at just how fast you learn the cases and how your confidence grows when discussing their finer points. I am supremely confident that you will also find yourself returning to the book when studying both for insight and refreshment of knowledge, and I quietly hope you will be equally excited whenever you turn to this unprecedented resource.
Please remember that it was you the worldwide readers, that inspired this book, so you owe it to yourselves to buy it (and use the hell out of it) and to tell your peers and friends everywhere, so that they too can work towards becoming an ‘A‘ student in English law.
– Remember that with ‘The Case Law Compendium’ you can do it.