Kingston v. Chicago & N.W. Railway

191 Wis. 610, 211 N.W. 913 (1927)

 

RULE:

Negligence of two or more wrongdoers, whose concurring acts of negligence result in injury, are each liable for the entire damages. This rule also applies to two causes, each attributable to the negligence of a liable party, concurring to produce an injury, either of which causes would produce it regardless of the other, because, whether the concurrence be intentional, actual, or constructive, each wrongdoer, in effect, adopts the conduct of his co-actor, and for the further reason that it is impossible to apportion the damage or to say that either perpetrated any distinct injury that can be separated from the whole. 

FACTS:

After his property sustained fire damage, plaintiff property owner filed a suit against defendant railroad. Plaintiff's property had been damaged when two fires united. The lower court entered a judgment for plaintiff. The court held that the fact that the other fire was of unknown origin did not affect defendant's liability because the fire attributable to defendant was of a greater magnitude.

ISSUE:

Can the railroad company, which is found to have been responsible for the origin of the northeast fire, escape liability because the origin of the northwest fire was not identified, although there is no reason to believe that it had any other than human origin? 

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

It is settled in the law of negligence that any one of two or more joint tortfeasors, or one of two or more wrongdoers whose concurring acts of negligence result in injury, are each individually responsible for the entire damage resulting from their joint or concurrent acts of negligence. This rule also obtains "where two causes, each attributable to the negligence of a responsible person, concur in producing an injury to another, either of which causes would produce it regardless of the other, . . . because, whether the concurrence be intentional, actual, or constructive, each wrongdoer, in effect, adopts the conduct of his co-actor, and for the further reason that it is impossible to apportion the damage or to say that either perpetrated any distinct injury that can be separated from the whole.

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