Law School Case Brief
Fish v. L.A. Dodgers Baseball Club - 56 Cal. App. 3d 620, 128 Cal. Rptr. 807 (1976)
The fact that an intervening act of a third person is done in a negligent manner does not make it a superseding cause if a reasonable man knowing the situation existing when the act of the third person is done would not regard it as highly extraordinary that the third person so acted or the act is a normal response to a situation created by the defendant's conduct and the manner in which the intervening act is done is not extraordinarily negligent. The fact that a third person does not perform his duty to protect the plaintiff from harm, either because he makes no effort or through his negligence does not succeed, is not a superseding cause.
Plaintiffs' son was struck by a foul ball while watching a major league baseball game, knocking him unconscious for approximately one minute. He was treated by the doctor who operated the emergency first aid station at the stadium who, after a brief examination, advised plaintiffs' son that he had a bump on the head but appeared to be all right and that he could return to his seat. That same night, plaintiffs' son was admitted to the hospital, where he died four days later from an intracerebral hemorrhage. In a wrongful death action against the baseball club and the doctor operating its emergency medical facility, plaintiffs' experts testified that the doctor was negligent in treating decedent, and that his failure to immobilize decedent during the period immediately following his injury probably prevented the hemorrhage from spontaneously stopping as the result of the body's normal healing processes. Plaintiffs' experts also testified, however that decedent could have been saved by emergency surgery after being admitted to the hospital. Such surgery was never performed. During oral argument, defendants' counsel argued that the hospital's negligence in not performing the surgery was the legal cause of decedent's death, and not any negligence on behalf of the defendant. Plaintiffs' request for an instruction that the intervening conduct of the hospital contributing to decedent's death was no defense to defendants' liability for negligence, was denied. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in favor of defendants.
Was it proper for the court to deny the request for instruction on intervening conduct?
The court held that the claimed negligence of the defendant doctor and the hospital were concurrent causes of decedent's death, and that it was no defense to plaintiffs' claim based on defendant's negligence that the conduct of the hospital was also a substantial factor contributing to decedent's death. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment, remanded to the trial court for another trial and held that because there was medical testimony that the alleged inadequate treatment by the third-party medical providers would not have saved appellants' son, appellants were entitled to the requested superseding cause jury instruction and it was prejudicial error for the trial court to deny the requested instruction.
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