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Ordinarily, foreseeability is a question of fact for the jury. It may be decided as a question of law only if, under the undisputed facts, there is no room for a reasonable difference of opinion.
Charles Bigbee was injured when an automobile struck the telephone booth in which he was standing brought suit against the companies allegedly responsible for the design, location, installation, and maintenance of the booth, seeking recovery on theories of negligence and strict liability in tort. Defendants filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing that the risk of an automobile veering off the street and crashing into the booth was unforeseeable as a matter of law and that the driver's negligence constituted a superseding cause of plaintiff's injuries. The trial court granted the motion and entered a judgment of dismissal.
Does foreseeability of the risk that an automobile might crash into the booth at issue and injure an individual inside remain a question of fact for the jury?
The court held a triable issue of fact existed as to the foreseeability of the risk that an automobile might crash into the booth at issue and injure an individual inside, since the evidence indicated that defendants placed the booth, which was difficult to exit, in a parking lot 15 feet from the side of a major thoroughfare and near a driveway. Under such circumstances, the court held it could not be concluded as a matter of law that it was unforeseeable that the booth might be struck by a car and cause serious injury to a person trapped within. The court held that a jury could reasonably conclude that such risk was foreseeable, particularly since there was also evidence that a booth at the same location had previously been struck. The court further held that it was of no consequence that the harm to Bigbee came about through the negligent or reckless acts of the driver, since the risk that a car might hit the telephone booth could be found to constitute one of the hazards to which Bigbee was exposed. Finally, with respect to Bigbee’s negligence claims, the court held there were no policy considerations which weighed against the imposition of liability.