Summary of Kramer Service v. Wilkins, S. Ct. Mississippi, 1939
Relevant Facts: Pl while a guest in Df’s hotel, received a cut on his head from a piece of glass that fell out of a broken transom when he opened the door. The transom had been broken for some time prior sufficient that the df was aware or should have had notice. The wound did not heal, but skin cancer developed therein afterward. One doctor testified that such a result could ensue but only 1 time in a hundred, and another testified there was no causal connection at all.
Legal Issue(s): Whether a secondary injury is the cause in fact or proximate cause of the harm, recoverable under a negligence action?
Court’s Holding: No
Procedure: Trial Ct. jury verdict for the Pl, DF appeals, affirmed liability but reversed and remanded on the damages.
Law or Rule(s): 1) Duty, 2) Breach of Duty 3) causation, and 4) damages. The causation element requires proof of both cause in fact and proximate cause.
Court Rationale: It is not enough that negligence of one person and injury to another coexisted, but the injury must have been caused by the negligence. Possibilities will not sustain a verdict. A possibility that a skin cancer could be caused by an injury, such as here described, was considered by both doctors and determined that it was not a probable outcome. After years of medical research the cause of cancer is unknown. If the cause is unknown to them, judges and juries must act on the same knowledge. Courts and juries must of necessity depend upon and accept the undisputed testimony of reputable specialists, otherwise there would be no foundation to rest a conclusion.
Plaintiff’s Argument: If it was not for the glass falling and causing the immediate injury PL would not have suffered the skin cancer.
Defendant’s Argument: Skin cancer could result from anything and everything as the exact cause is unknown. The only injury caused by Df was the cut and possibly an infection.