The Foundation and Structure of American Legal History

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Karina Molina
Introduction to Legal Studies LS102-03AU
Professor Scott Mandel
July 3, 2009

Legal fame may arise from great accomplishments, while other names become known for the issues for which they stand upon, like Rosa Parks, Roe and Miranda. For my first paper, the event that I felt influenced and changed the foundation and helped structure the American Legal History was the famous 1928 civil case Palsgraf V. Long Island Railroad Co. (248 N.Y. 339; 162 N.E. 99; Courts of Appeals New York (1928) The unique facts of the case created a need for a new application of the generally accepted theory that “negligence is the absence of care, according to the circumstances of the case”. (Benjamin Cardozo, 1928 N.Y. Lexis 1269; 59 A.L.R 1253). The famous accident occurred at the Queen’s Jamaica Station on the morning of Aug. 24, 1924. According to New York Times, 1924 Helen Palsgraf was standing on the platform waiting for a train just like the other passengers were, another passenger was running to catch a train that was departing. As the man jumped to catch the train, employees’ from the LIRR were trying to help him, when the package he was carrying fell to the rails. As a result of helping the man, the package exploded causing scales to fall on and injure passengers waiting for their train. The package which contained fireworks caused an explosion in which Mrs. Palsgraf and many others were injured, she later then sued the Long Island Railroad and won. The key point of the case that I felt changed the American Legal history was the opinions and different out looks each judge had toward the case. Later on these out looks would change history and the history of Tort Law. Judge Cardozo set a theory of duty and proximate causation that became the law of the state of New York, then eventually the law of the country. He wrote that the railroad was not liable, because the injury was unforeseeable. “Negligence is not actionable unless it involves the invasion of a...
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