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Butterfield v. Forrester Case Brief

Summary of Butterfield v. Forrester, Kings Bench, [1809]

Defenses – Plaintiff’s Conduct; Contributory Negligence

Relevant Facts: The pl was injured after striking an obstruction in the roadway. The df while making repairs to his house, put a pole across the road.  The pl, who had just left a public house as it neared dark, while riding his horse violently through the streets of Derby, struck the pole and was seriously injured.  A witness state if the pl had not been riding so he would have observed the pole.  There was no evidence the pl was intoxicated at the time.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the pl has a duty of care to avoid the negligent acts of the df?

Court’s Holding: yes

Procedure: Jury trial for the df, Rule is  refused.

Law or Rule(s): If a man lays logs of wood across a highway, though a person may with care ride safely by, yet if by means thereof my horse stumble and fling me action ensues.

Court Rationale: One person at fault will not dispense with the requirement that another person use ordinary car for himself.  Riding a horse as fast as it could go through the streets, near dark is not the exercise of ordinary care. A person cannot ride upon a hazard and expect the other to be solely at fault when he shares in the fault.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The pl should not have to look out for unknown obstructions negligently left in the path of an innocent traveler.

Defendant’s Argument: If pl had used ordinary care, not riding the horse so fast, he would have seen the obstruction.

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