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Brown v. Collins - 53 N.H. 442 (1873)

Rule:

Where in a tort action there is no fault on a defendant's part, and the damage was not caused by his voluntary and intended act; or by an act of which he knew, or ought to have known, the damage would be a necessary, probable, or natural consequence; or by an act which he knew, or ought to have known, to be unlawful, the defendant is not liable. 

Facts:

Lester Collins’ reputation was that he used ordinary care and skill in managing his horses. One time, however, the horses became frightened, then unmanageable. Albert H. Brown filed an action against Collins for damage to his property after Collins’ horses ran against and broke a post on the Brown's property.

Issue:

Was Collins liable for damages when his horses, frightened by a locomotive, became uncontrollable, ran away with him, went upon land of Brown, and broke a post there?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court determined that while it was not explicitly stated that Collins was without actual fault, such was to be inferred that the fact was so, and the court decided the case on that ground. The horses had broken away from Collins’ control, ran away with him, went upon the Brown's land, and did damage there against the will, intent, and desire of Collins. The case complained of was one for which the neighbor was not liable unless everyone was liable for all damage done by a superior force overpowering him and using him or his property as an instrument of violence. Collins was entitled to judgment.

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