Palsgraf V. Long Island Rail Road Co. Student Case Brief
Professor Eden A. Janowitz
Business Law 1
David S. McBrien
Due: October 5, 2014
The plaintiff was standing on a platform of the defendant's railroad after purchasing a train ticket. A train stopped at the station, destined for another place. Two men ran to catch it. One of the men reached the platform of the car without accident, though the train was already in motion. The other man carrying a package, jumped aboard the car, but seemed unsteady as if he was about to fall. An employee on the car who had held the door open, reached forward to help him in, and another employee on the platform pushed him from behind. In this act the package was displaced from the man's arms and fell onto the rails. It was a package of small size, about fifteen inches long, and was covered by a newspaper. The package contained fireworks, but there was nothing in its appearance to give notice of its contents. The fireworks inside the package exploded when they fell. The jolt of the explosion threw down some scales at the other end of the platform, many feet away. The scales struck the plaintiff causing injuries for which Ms. Palsgraf sues Long Island Rail Road Company.
The issue in this case is if the employees of Long Island Rail Road Company acted negligently toward the plaintiff by actions that caused the man’s unmarked package of fireworks to explode knocking scales over on the plaintiff and injuring her. Another issue is whether or not the employees’ duties of care extend to the plaintiff due to the fact that she was possibly “out of range” of foreseeability for a duty to be owed.
A reasonable person would not have been able to foresee that the newspaper-covered package would pose a threat to someone not in the vicinity of it. Therefore the employee of the railroad was not the proximate cause of the damage to Mrs. Palsgraf. The explosion itself was the proximate cause. The court ruled in favor of Long Island...