Derdiarian v. Felix Contracting Corp. Case Brief

Summary of Derdiarian v. Felix Contracting Corp., NY Ct of App. 1980


Relevant Facts: The operator of a motor vehicle, who failed timely to ingest a dosage of medication, suffered an epileptic seizure and his vehicle careened into an excavation site where a gas main was being installed beneath the street surface. The automobile crashed through a single wooden horse-type barricade put in place by the contractor and struck an employee of a subcontractor, who was propelled into the air. Upon landing the employee was splattered by boiling liquid enamel from a kettle also struck by the vehicle. Although pl’s body was ignited he survived.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the contractor’s inadequate safety precautions on the work site were the proximate cause of the accident?

Court’s Holding: YES, The driver was negligent, or even reckless, and did not insulate general contractor from liability nor did fact that driver lost control for negligent failure to take medication.

Procedure: The S Ct, Trial Term, jury determined in favor of PL, judge rendered interlocutory judgment on liability issue. The S Ct, App Division, affirmed; Order of App Division affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): Where acts of a third person intervene between defendant’s conduct and plaintiff’s injury, the causal connection is not automatically severed and, in such case, liability turns on whether the intervening act is a normal or foreseeable consequence of the situation created by defendant’s negligence.

Court Rationale: That fact that the defendant could not anticipate the precise manner of the accident or the exact nature of the injuries does not preclude liability as a matter of law where the general risk and character of injuries are foreseeable. From the evidence in the record the jury could have found that Felix negligently failed to safeguard the excavation site. Serious injury or even death, was a foreseeable consequence of a vehicle crashing through the work area. The precise manner of the event need not be anticipated.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The intervening car crash was a normal and foreseeable consequence of the situation created by the Df’s negligence.

Defendant’s Argument: Felix argues that pl was injured in a freakish accident, brought about solely by dfs’ negligence, and therefore there was no causal link, as a matter of law, between Felix’ breach of duty and pl’s injuries.[

interlocutory – not final.

Plaintiff’s theory was that defendant Felix had negligently failed to take adequate measures to insure the safety of workers on the excavation site.

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