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When determining whether a danger is foreseeable, an appellate court looks at whether the specific danger was objectively reasonable to expect, not simply whether it was within the realm of any conceivable possibility. A harm which is not objectively reasonable to expect is too remote to create liability. Although in most cases the question of foreseeability is an issue for the jury, the foreseeability of harm can be decided by the court as a matter of law when the issue is clear.
On October 15, 2003, three-year-old David Foss, Jr., was seriously injured by a falling bookcase while he was a guest in the home of respondents Stephanie and Jeremy Kincade. David Foss, Sr., on behalf of himself and his son, brought this action against the Kincades alleging that the Kincades' negligent failure to secure the bookcase to a wall was the cause of David's injuries. The Rice County District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Kincades, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed.
Was the harm that a three-year-old guest would injure himself by attempting to climb the bookcase reasonably foreseeable?
The court affirmed the judgments of the district court and the court of appeals that the harm was not foreseeable. The homeowners did not owe the child a duty as a matter of law. It was not objectively reasonable to expect the homeowners to foresee that a guest would climb on a bookcase nor was it objectively reasonable to expect the homeowners to guard against that possibility. The homeowners' disposal of the bookcase did not warrant the imposition of a discovery sanction because the homeowners admitted to knowing that the bookcase was capable of tipping over.