152 Eng. Rep. 588 (1842).
One-Sentence Synopsis: Where a defendant had the last opportunity to avoid an accident and failed to do so, he shall be held liable to Plaintiff for damages even if Plaintiff was initially negligent in placing himself in peril. See Last Clear Chance Doctrine
Detailed Case Summary: Plaintiff had negligently tied his donkey by the side of the road. Defendant, who was riding his wagon at high rate of speed, hit the donkey and the donkey died. At trial, the trial court instructed the jury that even if the act of Plaintiff was negligent, if proximate cause was attributable to the want of proper care on the part of Defendant, Plaintiff can recover against Defendant. The jury ruled in favor of the Plaintiff.
The issue facing the appellate court was whether Plaintiff should have recovered in the action. It ruled in the affirmative. The Court reasoned that, even though there was negligence on the part of Plaintiff, Defendant could have prevented the accident by use of ordinary care. The Court noted that, “Were this not so, a man might justify the driving over goods left on public highway, or even over a man lying asleep there, or the purposely running against a carriage going on the wrong side of the road.”
Davies v. Mann
10 M.&W. 545
The defendant pleaded not guilty.
At the trial, before Ershine, J., at the last Summer Assizes for the county of Worcester, it appeared that the plaintiff, having fettered the fore feet of an ass belonging to him, turned it into a public highway, and at the time in question the ass was grazing on the off side of a road about eight yards wide, when the defendant’s waggon, with a team of three horses, coming down a slight descent, at what the witness termed a smartish pace, ran against the ass, knocked it down, and the wheels passing over it, it died soon after. The ass was fettered at the time, and it was proved that the driver of the waggon was some little distance behind the horses. The learned Judge told the ‘ jury, that though the act of the plaintiff, in leaving the donkey on the highway so fettered as to prevent his getting out of the way of carriages travelling along it, might be illegal, still, if the proximate cause of the injury was attributable to the want of proper conduct on the part of the driver of the waggon, the action was maintainable against the defendant; and his Lordship directed them, if they thought that the accident might have been avoided by the exercise of ordinary care on the part of the driver, to find for the plaintiff. The jury found their verdict for the plaintiff, damages 40s.
Godson now moved for a new trial, on the ground of misdirection.’—The act of the plaintiff in turning the donkey into the public highway was an illegal one, and, as the injury arose principally from that act, the plaintiff was not entitled to compensation for that injury which, but for his own unlawful act, would never have occurred. [Parke, B.—The declaration states that the ass was lawfully on the highway, and the defendant has not traversed that allegation; therefore it must be taken to be admitted.] The principle of law, as deducible from the cases, is, that where an accident is the result of faults on both sides, neither party can maintain an action. Thus, in Butterfield v.Forrester (a), it was held that one who is injured by an obstruction on a highway, against which he fell, cannot maintain an action, if it appear that he was riding with great violence and want of ordinary care, without which he might have seen and avoided the obstruction. So, in Vennall v. Garner (a), in case for running down a ship, it was held, that neither party can recover when both are in the wrong; and Bayley, ?., there says, ” I quite agree that if the mischief be the result of the combined negligence of the two, they must both remain in statu quo, and neither party can recover against the other.” Here the plaintiff, by fettering the donkey, had prevented him from removing himself out of the way of accident; had his fore feet been free, no accident would probably have happened. Pluckwell v. Wilson (b), Luxford v. Large (c), and Lynch v.Nurdin (d), are to the same effect.
Lord ABINGER, C. B.—I am of opinion that there ought to be no rule in this case. The defendant has not denied that the ass was lawfully in the highway, and therefore we must assume it to have been lawfully there; but even were it otherwise, it would have made no difference, for as the defendant might, by proper care, have avoided injuring the animal, and did not, he is liable for the consequences of his negligence, though the animal may have been improperly there.
PARKE, B.—This subject was fully considered by this Court in the case of Bridge v. The Grand Junction Railway Company (e), where, as appears to me, the correct rule is laid down concerning negligence, namely, that the negligence which is to preclude a plaintiff from recovering in an action of this nature, must be such as that he could, by ordinary care, have avoided the consequences of the de-fendant’s negligence. I am reported to have said in that case, and I believe quite correctly, that “the rule of law is laid down with perfect correctness in the case of But-terfield v. Forrester, that, although there may have been negligence on the part of the plaintiff, yet unless he might, by the exercise of ordinary care, have avoided the consequences of the defendant’s negligence, he is entitled to recover; if by ordinary care he might have avoided them, he is the author of his own wrong.” In that case of Bridge v. Grand Junction Railway Company, there was a plea imputing negligence on both sides; here it is otherwise; and the Judge simply told the jury, that the mere fact of negligence on the part of the plaintiff in leaving his donkey on the public highway, was no answer to the action, unless the donkey’s being there was the immediate cause of the injury; and that, if they were of opinion that it was caused by the fault of the defendant’s servant in driving too fast, or, which is the same thing, at a smartish pace, the mere fact of putting the ass upon the road would not bar the plaintiff of his action.” All that is perfectly correct; for, although the ass may have been wrongfully there, still the defendant was bound to go along the road at such a pace as would be likely to prevent mischief. Were this not so, a man might justify the driving over goods left on a public highway, or even over a man lying asleep there, or the purposely running against a carriage going on the wrong side of the road.
GURNEY, B., and ROLFE, B., concurred.