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Dillon v. Twin State Gas & Elec. Co. - 85 N.H. 449, 163 A. 111 (1932)

Rule:

In passing upon the issue of reasonableness, relative and comparative considerations are made. In general, when the danger is great and the wrongful conduct of the injured person is not serious, it is reasonable for the law to find a relationship and to impose a duty of protection. A defendant in his own interest causing dangerous forces to operate or dangerous conditions to exist should reasonably protect those likely to be exposed to them and not reasonably in fault for the exposure.

Facts:

Referring to Twin State Gas & Electric Company’s (“Twin”) wires, Twin's foreman complained to the city about a public bridge's use as a playground by trespassing boys. After falling from the bridge, decedent minor was electrocuted upon grabbing Twin’s live wires. In this negligence action, Twin appealed the trial court's entry of judgment for plaintiff administrator of decedent's estate.

Issue:

Was utility company Twin liable for exposing the decedent to dangerously charged wires?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court overruled Twin's exception, finding evidence sufficient to hold Twin liable for exposing decedent to danger of charged wires because denying liability to known trespassers was reasonably regarded as a greater injustice than imposing duty of reasonable care on a negligent defendant. Twin had a duty to provide insulation at points where there was reason to apprehend known trespassers might come in contact with the wires. To prevent falling, the decedent's use of Twin's wires was non-possessory and reasonable. Twin should not be allowed to defend an indefensible act by showing that that the injured party was engaged in doing something which, as to a third person, was unlawful.

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