Law School Case Brief
Merhi v. Becker - 164 Conn. 516, 325 A.2d 270 (1973)
If a defendant's conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about harm to another, the fact that the defendant neither foresaw nor should have foreseen the extent of the harm or the manner in which it occurred does not prevent him from being liable. Neither foreseeability of the extent nor the manner of the injury constitutes the criteria for deciding questions of proximate cause. The test is whether the harm which occurred was of the same general nature as the foreseeable risk created by the defendant's negligence.
The plaintiff, Ronald Merhi, was hurt at a union picnic where alcoholic beverages were served and several brawls ensued. The incident happened when a certain Richard Becker, who was one of the people involved in the brawl, intentionally drove his car towards the crowd with the intention of hitting another person but accidentally hit and injured the plaintiff instead. The plaintiff has filed an action against the union asserting that it has exhibited negligence because it failed to provide adequate police protection in the area and failed to monitor the actions of its patrons in light of their consumption of alcoholic beverages. The union maintained that Becker’s intentional act of driving his car into the crowd relieved it of liability because the union's alleged negligence in not controlling the crowd was not the proximate cause of the victim's injuries. The Superior Court in Fairfield County (Connecticut) entered judgment in favor of the victim on a jury verdict, and the union challenged the decision.
Can the intentional act of one person who aims to hurt another in a gathering organized by the union relieve the union from liabilities when the act resulted to an injury?
The Court held that the union is liable to the damages that resulted from an act of one of its patrons since it failed to perform its duty of providing adequate police protection or controlling the activities of its beer drinking guests, especially after an earlier outbreak of fisticuffs. Further, the union's conduct in failing to control the situation was a substantial contributing factor in bringing about the harm. According to the Court, Becker’s action was a foreseeable consequence of the lack of control exercised by the union and Becker’s acts fell within the scope of the risk created by the union's conduct.
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