Kramer Serv., Inc. v. Wilkins

184 Miss. 483, 186 So. 625 (1939)

 

RULE:

It is not enough that negligence of one person and injury to another coexists, but the injury must be caused by the negligence. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is not sound as evidence or argument. Nor is it sufficient for a plaintiff, seeking recovery for alleged negligence by another toward the plaintiff, to show a possibility that the injury complained of was caused by negligence. Possibilities will not sustain a verdict. It must have a better foundation. 

FACTS:

The visitor was a business associate of a hotel guest. The guest notified the hotel clerk that there was a break in the glass of the transom of his room. Later, the guest and visitor had a business meeting in the guest's room. When the visitor opened the door to leave, the broken glass fell onto his head, causing a wound on the temple, as well as two other wounds. The temple wound never healed and a cancer developed. The hotel owners requested instruction that the cancer should not have been considered by the jury was refused by the court and the jury awarded a large sum in the visitor's favor. The lower court affirmed the liability because there was sufficient competent evidence that the condition had existed for a sufficient length of time to charge the hotel owner with responsible notice of the problem and a reasonably prudent and careful operator should have foreseen the likelihood of injury. The case was appealed.

ISSUE:

Was it proper for the court to deny the hotel owner's requested instruction that the cancer should not be considered in the circumstances?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

The Court found the hotel owner liable for the visitor's injuries. However, the court reversed and remanded as to the damages because the expert testimony on whether the wound was the cause of the cancer entitled the hotel owner to the requested instruction. It was held that it is not sufficient that negligence and damage happen simultaneously; there must be a causal connection between them. The likelihood of damage resulting due to carelessness is likewise insufficient to merit a connection. In situations where the topic is past the experience or perception of laymen, courts must rely upon medical opinion to decide if the causal connection is enough to merit liability. The jury must be permitted to think about the expert testimony when choosing to grant damages for the Plaintiff's cancer, notwithstanding the original damage.

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