Vaughan v. Menlove Case Brief

Summary of Vaughan v. Menlove, Ct. of Common Pleas, ENG, 1837

Facts: Df built a hay rick near the boundary of his land not far from his neighbor’s cottages. Over a period of five weeks the df was warned of the danger that the rick would ignite. He made a chimney thereafter the rick ignited in flame from the spontaneous combustion within the materials. The flames communicated to the PL’s cottages, and df’s barn and stables.

Issue: Whether the construction and subsequent molding of the rick constituted a standard of care that a reasonable prudent person would exercise?

Holding: No

Procedure: First impression case. Jury returned a verdict for PL. Affirmed.

Rule: If an occupier burns near the boundary of his land that damage ensues to the property of his neighbor, his is liable to an action for the amount of injury done, unless the accident were occasioned by a sudden blast that was not foreseeable.

Ct. Rationale: The df did not himself light the fire, yet mediately, he is as much the cause of it as if he himself put a candle to the rick; for it is well known that hay will ferment and take fire if it be not carefully stacked. The stacking of hay within a rick requires a regard of caution such as a man of ordinary prudence would observe.

PL A: The df was warned that the hay would ignite several time prior to ignition, and the df modified the rick as a chimney.

Def A: Df acted honestly and bona fide to the best of his own judgment, without fault, b/c df did not possess the highest intelligence.

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