80 Eng. Rep. 284 (K.B. 1616)

Plaintiff was injured when Defendant discharged his musket accidentally while both of them were engaged in a military exercise.

Plaintiff brought an action in trespass against Defendant.  Defendant entered a special plea.  Judgment was entered for Plaintiff on the ground that the only justification available to Defendant — which he had failed to show — was that the accident “may be judged utterly without his fault.  As if a man by force take my hand and strike you . . .”  The problem for Plaintiff was that the court’s concept of “utterly without fault” (the court’s use of the term “negligence” notwithstanding) amounted to evidence that the act really was not Defendant’s.  Such proof, however, really would fit under the general plea (“I didn’t do it”) rather than the special plea.  But Defendant could not enter a general please because the act, while accidental, was undeniably his; and the fact that the injury was accidental did not fit within the recognized justification under a special plea.

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