163 N.E. 99 (N.Y. 1928)

A seminal case in the area of negligence/torts law.

The case involved claims against the defendant railroad company based on the following facts:

The defendant railroad company’s employee, while attempting to assist a passenger (not a party to the case) who was trying to board a moving train, negligently caused the passenger to drop a package.  The package contained fireworks, which exploded when dropped and somehow caused weighing scales on the platform 30 feet away to fall onto plaintiff.

Judge Cardozo ruled for the court that, while the railroad employee clearly owed a duty of reasonable care to the boarding passenger (who was within the foreseeable zone of any danger to his person or property from the employee’s negligence), the employee did not owe a duty of care to plaintiff while assisting the boarding passenger because the plaintiff was outside the zone of any foreseeable danger from the activity.  Thus, although the railroad employee was negligent with respect to the boarding passenger, he was not negligent with respect to the plaintiff because no duty arising out of that activity (assisting the passenger to board the train) was owed to the plaintiff.

Related entries