Palsgraf V. the Long Island Railroad

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  • Topic: Causality, Law, Proximate cause
  • Pages : 2 (423 words )
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  • Published : November 2, 2012
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In the case Palsgraf v. The Long Island Railroad, 248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99, 1928 N.Y.Lexis 1269 (N.Y.), Justice Cardoza denied recovery for the plaintiff. Justice Cardoza found that the railroad was not the proximate cause of Helen Palsgraf's injuries. The concept of proximate cause is one that is less than precise. In today's world of business can we still be sure that the reasoning used by Cardoza still applies? Has a new standard developed? In reviewing the materials in the text you should be able to discuss the issue of causation in a meaningful and dispassionate manner.

Proximate cause (or legal cause) can be defined as the point at which (in a chain of events) the negligent party caused injury to the plaintiff, but no longer has legal responsibility for his/or her own actions. This was the case in 1928, when Helen Palsgraf was injured by a scale, which fell do to an explosion on the platform cause by a concealed package of fireworks, dislodged from another individual’s arm. Since there appeared to be no “immediate harm” to the plaintiff and that the fireworks are what actually started this chain of events, Justice Cardozo ruled in favor of The Long Island Railroad Company.

To this day, the term “proximate cause” still causes quite a debate. For instance, in the case of Petition of Kinsman Transit Co., the defendants (Kinsman Transit Co.) were found liable. The case stemmed from an incident involving a ship (Shiras), owned by Kinsman. The ship tore loose from the dock due to icy conditions and poor handling by their crew members along the Buffalo River. Eventually, the Shiras hit another ship and both ran right into a drawbridge operated by the city of Buffalo. In turn, the collided ships created a dam which caused major flooding and damage to nearby property.

The ruling was that due to the negligence of the crew members of the Shiras, the chain of events that had followed were “foreseeable” at the time. Yet, "... a negligent actor is responsible...
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