Proximate causation is not always arrested by the intervention of an independent force. If the original negligence continues to the time of the injury and contributes substantially thereto in conjunction with the intervening act, each may be a proximate concurring cause for which full liability may be imposed.
Respondent operated a general street railway system and maintained wooden poles adjacent to the curbing on boulevard as part of its system. Appellant was standing on the sidewalk near one of these poles when an automobile, negligently driven collided with the pole, which broke a short distance above the ground and fell on appellant, causing severe injuries. The trial court entered judgment for respondent after sustaining its demurrer to appellant's complaint. The court of appeal reversed holding issues for the trier of fact existed as to whether respondent exercised ordinary care as well as to whether the collision was an intervening or superseding cause.
Did the trial court err on entering judgment for respondent after sustaining its demurrer to appellant's complaint?
It was the duty of respondent to select and maintain poles sufficiently strong to withstand the ordinary strain of weather conditions and other tests of strength likely to be encountered along a busy highway. It was bound to exercise ordinary care to keep its poles in a safe condition, so as not to expose passersby to an unreasonable risk of harm. The extent of this duty is measured by the standard of foreseeability of injury to the eyes of a reasonably prudent man having regard for the accompanying circumstances. Under the allegations of the complaint, plaintiff would be entitled to prove that respondent's pole was in such an advanced state of deterioration that it could be caused to fall by a relatively light force, such as an ordinary rain or wind storm might produce, or that it might even be upon the verge of falling of its own weight; that respondent knew, or should have known of such condition; and that reasonable precautions were not taken. Such proof would justify a conclusion that respondent was negligent. Whether the test of ordinary care was met was an issue for the trier of fact.