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Buch v. Armory Manufacturing Co. - 44 A. 809 (N.H. 1897)

Rule:

There is a wide difference--a broad gulf--both in reason and in law, between causing and preventing an injury; between doing by negligence or otherwise a wrong to one's neighbor, and preventing him from injuring himself; between protecting him against injury by another and guarding him from injury that may accrue to him from the condition of the premises which he has unlawfully invaded. The duty to do no wrong is a legal duty. The duty to protect against wrong is, generally speaking and excepting certain intimate relations in the nature of a trust, a moral obligation only, not recognized or enforced by law.

Facts:

Plaintiff, then an eight-year-old boy, was in Defendant’s mill without the owners' knowledge or permission and when weaving machinery was in operation. An overseer, who realized that the plaintiff was not an employee, asked him to leave as the running machinery presented an obvious hazard to a child of his age. However, plaintiff's hand was crushed in a machine that was being operated by his brother, who was then 13 years old and an employee. During trial, the factory owners argued that the injury victim was a trespasser, to whom they owed no duty. The lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

Issue:

Is an injured child entitled to recover for injuries sustained while he was a trespasser in a dangerous weaving factory?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court set aside the verdict and entered judgment for the factory owners. The plaintiff in this case was a trespasser in a place that was dangerous to children of his age. In the operation of their business, defendants were without fault. Moreover, owners are not bound to warn trespassers. On the contrary, trespassers are liable for any damage that he/she may cause the owner or his/her property.

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