Law School Case Brief
Braun v. Buffalo Gen. Elec. Co. - 200 N.Y. 484, 94 N.E. 206 (1911)
A company, if reasonably chargeable with knowledge, or in the exercise of reasonable prudence bound to anticipate, that people may lawfully come in close proximity to its wires either for purposes of business or pleasure, is under obligation to exercise care to keep the latter in a safe condition.
While the decedent, Nicholas Braun, was building a residence on private property, he took hold of two high-voltage electric wires that ran across the property. The insulation on the wires had become ragged and defective, and the decedent was electrocuted to death. The wires were owned and maintained by defendant Buffalo General Electric Company ("Buffalo"). Plaintiff Charles Braun, as administrator of the decedent's estate, filed a lawsuit against Buffalo in New York state court alleging that Buffalo was negligent in not keeping its wires insulated and that the decedent was not guilty of contributory negligence. Buffalo argued that Braun urged too severe a duty on Buffalo and that there was no evidence that established that the decedent exercised due care. After trial, a jury rendered a verdict for Buffalo. The trial court entered judgment on the verdict. On Braun's appeal, the appellate division affirmed. Braun was granted permission to appeal.
Did Buffalo exercise reasonable care and diligence in maintaining proper electrical insulation to prevent accidents?
The Court of Appeals of New York reversed the appellate division's judgment and the trial court's judgment and granted Braun a new trial. The court ruled that Buffalo should not have been relieved, on the ground of expense, from the affirmative duty of exercising a reasonable degree of care to maintain proper insulation and thereby prevent accidents to those who lawfully came into close proximity of its wires. The court further ruled that Buffalo, which was reasonably chargeable with knowledge, or in the exercise of reasonable prudence should have anticipated, that people may lawfully have come in close proximity to its wires either for purposes of business or pleasure, was under an obligation to exercise care and keep the wires in a safe condition.
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