Ploof v. Putnam

81 Vt. 471, 71 A. 188 (1908)



The doctrine of necessity applies with special force to the preservation of human life. One assaulted and in peril of his life may run through the close of another to escape from his assailant. One may sacrifice the personal property of another to save his life or the lives of his fellows.


Defendant was the owner of a dock attached to an island. Plaintiff was sailing in a loaded sloop with his wife and children. A storm arose and plaintiff moored the sloop to defendant's dock to avoid danger to their lives and to their property. Defendant's servant unmoored the sloop, and the sloop was driven upon the shore by the storm and destroyed. Plaintiff sued defendant alleging that defendant by his servant negligently unmoored the sloop. Defendant demurred to both counts, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the supreme court affirmed the trial court's denial of defendant's general demurrers.


Were the plaintiff’s actions reasonably necessary to save the lives of the sloop’s occupants?




The allegations are, in substance, that the stress of a sudden and violent tempest compelled the plaintiff to moor to defendant's dock to save his sloop and the people in it. The condition of necessity is complete, for it covers not only the necessity of mooring, but the necessity of mooring to the dock.

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