Ventricelli v. Kinney Sys. Rent A Car, Inc.

45 N.Y.2d 950, 411 N.Y.S.2d 555, 383 N.E.2d 1149 (1978)



Proximate cause and foreseeability are relative terms, nothing more than a convenient formula for disposing of the case. The range of reasonable apprehension is at times a question for the court, and at times, if varying inferences are possible, a question for the jury. So it is with proximate cause and foreseeability.


Plaintiff lessee brought a personal injury action against defendants, lessor and automobile owner, resulting from an automobile accident. The lessee was injured when she was struck by the automobile owner's car while trying to close the trunk lid of her leased vehicle while parked along side a curb. There was evidence that the trunk lid repeatedly flew open and that several attempts to repair the lid failed. The lessee brought a defective product complaint against third-party defendant manufacturer. The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, modified the trial court's order to dismiss the action against the lessor so as to limit recovery from the automobile owner. The lessee and lessor appealed. The court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court in modifying the lower court's order to dismiss the lessee's personal injury action against the lessor.


Was the act of lessor in leasing a defective automobile to the plaintiff the proximate cause of the resulting harm?




The court held that the negligence of the lessor was not the proximate cause of the lessee's injuries because it was not reasonably foreseeable that the lessee, while in a safe area attempting to close the defective trunk lid, would be struck by another automobile. The court concluded that effective cause of the lessee's injuries was solely the negligence of the automobile owner.

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