Summary of Byrne v. Boadle, Ct of Exchequer, ENG 1863
Relevant Facts: The Pl was walking down a public street, past the Df shop, when a barrel of flour fell upon him from a window above the shop. The Df was a dealer in flour.
Legal Issue(s): Without affirmative proof of negligence, can a Df automatically be liable for prima facie negligence?
Court’s Holding: yes
Procedure: Nonsuited the Pl, lack of evidence. Leave of Ct of Exchequer. Reversed. Nisi -concluded unless PL shows cause on appeal.
Law or Rule(s): Exercise of ordinary care and prudence a person would observe under similar circumstance. Res Ipsa Loquitor – The thing speaks for itself. Proof that the instrument causing the injury was under the exclusive control of the df and the injury does not ordinarily happen unless negligent.
Court Rationale: There is no evidence that anyone other than a servant or dealer had control over the barrel. The presumption is that a barrel could not roll out of the warehouse without some negligence. The barrel of flour was in the custody of the dealer of flour, who is responsible for his servants, and the PL is not bound to show that the barrel could not fall without negligence.
Plaintiff’s Argument: PL had no duty to exercise anymore care than another walking down the street. Df had control over the barrel of flour.
Defendant’s Argument: Df had no knowledge that the barrel fell as a result of his servants or his own volition.