When a Crash Causes Unusual Consequences

When a Crash Causes Unusual Consequences

What happens when a Los Angeles car crash causes unusual consequences?

The issue is raised as a result of a serious collision involving a Los Angeles Fire Department truck in North Hollywood early this morning.

Responding to an emergency, the fire truck driver lost control and plowed into several parked cars.  That collision knocked down a power line, which caused a fire in an adjacent property.

So, is the driver responsible for all the resulting consequences?  In other words, is the driver responsible for the fire that was sparked by the downed-power line knocked down by one of the parked cars that the truck crashed into?

It seems like a parade of horribles that one would expect on a law school examination question!

The landmark 1928 case of Paslgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company that every first-year law student studies probably sheds light on this issue.

Justice Cardozo wrote that in order for a plaintiff to hold a defendant liable, the defendant’s actions must be the “proximate cause” of the harm.  “Proximate cause” is defined as something that is “reasonably foreseeable.”

The foreseeability test asks whether it is reasonably foreseeable that the defendant’s negligence could cause the type of harm the plaintiff suffered.

Is it foreseeable that a crashing fire truck can knock down a power line and cause a fire to an adjacent property?  I think the answer is yes, but it’s possible a court would disagree.

What do you think?

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