Summary judgment is appropriate if a plaintiff has no reasonable expectation of proving that the injury to the plaintiff was a foreseeable result of the defendant's negligent conduct.
The victim was watering the homeowner's flowers as a favor. Upon grabbing the outside water faucet, he received an electric shock that threw him through the air, melted his sneakers and glasses, set his pants on fire, and knocked his dental plate from his mouth. He suffered serious injuries. The victim filed a negligence claim and damages against the homeowner and his wife for loss of consortium and severe electric shock. The Superior Court granted the homeowner's motion for summary judgment. The victim appealed the case to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.
Was summary judgment in favor of the defendants proper?
The appellate court held that the victim submitted sufficient evidence to establish that faulty repairs of the toilet by the homeowner resulted in flooding and severe electric shock to the victim when he touched the faucet. However, summary judgment was properly granted because the harm the victim suffered was so highly extraordinary that the homeowner could not be required to guard against it. The victim's severe and unfortunate injuries were the consequence of the type of unforeseeable accident for which the homeowner was not to be held responsible in tort. Although a variety of foreseeable injuries arising out of a defective toilet could be envisioned, the electric shock to a neighbor when he touched a faucet outside the house was well beyond the range of reasonable apprehension and therefore was not foreseeable.