Scurti v. New York

40 N.Y.2d 433, 387 N.Y.S.2d 55, 354 N.E.2d 794 (1976)

 

RULE:

The liability of a landowner to one injured upon his property should be governed, not by the ancient and antiquated distinctions between trespassers, licensees, and invitees decisive under common law, but rather by the standard applicable to negligence cases generally, i.e., the standard of reasonable care under the circumstances whereby foreseeability should be a measure of liability.

FACTS:

Appellant administrator was the father of the deceased 14-year old high school student who entered a railroad yard through a hole in the fence at the rear of a playground. The deceased was electrocuted when he came into contact with a high voltage catenary wire used to supply power to the locomotives. The administrator commenced an action against respondents, city and railroad related parties, and sought damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, and loss of services. The trial court held liable various railroad related parties who owned and operated the yard and the tracks, the mainline track, and the diesel engines in the area. The appellate court reversed the order in part, holding that the landowners' liability to the student depended on the reasonableness of their conduct under all of the facts and circumstances. The court modified and affirmed the order, holding that two of the railroad related parties were not liable because they were simply bystanders who ran diesel, not electric powered, trains in the yard, and their activities had nothing to do with the student's death.

ISSUE:

Was the liability of respondents, city and railroad related parties, for injury to one who concededly entered their property without permission subject to the rule distinguishing between trespassers, licensees, and invitees?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The landowners' liability to the deceased depended on the reasonableness of their conduct under all of the facts and circumstances. Two of the railroad related parties were not liable because they were simply bystanders who ran diesel, not electric powered, trains in the yard, and their activities had nothing to do with the student's death.

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