Freakish Series of Events Kills Atlanta Woman
A young woman who survived a car crash was killed by a toppling utility pole a few moments after the wreck.
26-year-old Keisha Edwards was involved in a minor car crash on Woodruff Farm Road. Neither he nor her passenger was injured. As they walked around the vehicle to inspect the damage, an elderly woman lost control of her vehicle and became entangled in a cable supporting a utility pole. As a result, a nearby pole broke in two and fell onto Edwards and two other people. She did not survive. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said the broken pole “became a pendulum [which] swung and hit the three people, killing Keisha.”
“This is a very freak accidental death,” he added.
Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company
Edwards’ tragic story is eerily similar to another tragedy which unfolded in New York about a hundred years ago. Benjamin Cardozo, who later became on the of the most prominent Supreme Court Justices in history, authored this 1928 opinion. The facts in Palsgraf, almost like the facts in the Edwards death, are almost too incredible to believe.
Ms. Palsgraf was with her girls at a New York City train station, waiting for a train to take them to Coney Island. Supposedly, Ms. Palsgraf was going through a rather nasty divorce. She apparently thought that a few hours at Rockaway Beach would be a welcome distraction.
As they waited for their train, on the other side of the platform, a scene right out of an Abbott and Costello movie was playing out. A recent Italian immigrant, who witnesses described as rather portly, was trying to board another train as it pulled away from the platform. One railroad worker tried to push him in from below. Another railroad worker tried to pull him in from above. During all this jostling, the man dropped a package of explosives.
Why do we mention the man was Italian? That’s one of the controversial points in this case. According to the court, the explosives were red, white, and green fireworks (the three colors of the Italian flag). According to others, however, the anonymous man was an anarchist. Anarchists were essentially early 20th century terrorists. And, according to these same people, the man had something much more nefarious planned for the bundle of explosives.
Anyway, when the man dropped the package, it exploded. That explosion triggered a shock wave which pushed some large scales onto poor, unsuspecting Ms. Palsgraf, who never saw it coming. She later sued the railroad, alleging that the negligent railroad employees caused her injuries.
Eventually, the court agreed that the railroad workers were negligent. You can’t get much more careless than that. However, Ms. Palsgraf’s injury was too remote. Therefore, the railroad was not legally responsible for her injuries.
Frequently, dissenting court opinions are little more than footnotes. But this case is different. One judge argued that Ms. Palsgraf was within what he called the zone of danger. As such, according to Judge Andrews, she was entitled to damages from the railroad company.
Today, Judge Cardozo’s foreseeability rule is the majority rule in personal injury cases. However, Judge Andrews’ zone of danger rule sometimes applies. For example, if parents see their children injured in car crashes, the parents are usually entitled to compensation, even if they suffered no physical injury.
Basic Elements of a Negligence Case
So much for foreseeability, or proximate cause, which is one element of a negligence claim. A modern example might be a car crash victim who goes to the hospital where the doctor makes a medical mistake. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) is probably not responsible for damages due to the botched operation. That mistake was not foreseeable.
The other elements of a negligence case are duty, breach, causation, and damages. When Marietta personal injury lawyers collect evidence in negligence cases, they usually focus on these five elements.
Duty means legal responsibility. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Commercial drivers usually have a higher duty of care. So, it is usually easier to establish the second element in Uber driver, truck driver, taxi driver, and other commercial operator crashes.
Breach is a lack of care. Not all driving mistakes are a breach of duty, and distracted driving is a good example. Talking to passengers is technically distracted driving. However, most Cobb County jurors would not consider this behavior to be a breach of duty, However, if the driver was using a phone, most jurors believe the driver has breached the duty of reasonable care.
Victim/plaintiffs must establish a breach of duty by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Georgia law.
Cause is usually the most straightforward element in a negligence case. Victim/plaintiffs must show a direct connection between the breach and the injury. The foreseeability rule comes into play here as well.
Finally, the victim/plaintiff must sustain physical damage. Near misses are incredibly frightening, especially for pedestrians. However, these incidents are not negligence.
As for monetary damages, victims are usually entitled compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Connect with an Assertive Lawyer
Accident victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Home and hospital visits are available.