Looking For That Perfect Gift From Your Legal Love Muffin? Look No Further

My colleague and fellow torts professor, Roger Schechter, came across this perfect gift for the law student or lawyer who has everything. Do they have a Palsgraf teeshirt? Well, they need one.

This ideal stocking stuffer is essential wear for the well-appointed torts lawyer.

The teeshirt refers to the celebrated case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., 248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99 (N.Y. 1928), written by Chief Judge Benjamin Cardozo. In the case read by every law student for decades, a passenger carrying a package with fireworks was running to catch a moving train. Two employees attempted to help the man on the train car and caused the package to fall on the rails. When the package exploded, it knocked down scales at the other end of the platform injuring Mrs. Helen Palsgraf. When Palsgraf sued the railroad for negligence, the court had to consider the scope of proximate causation. Cardozo held that “there was nothing in the situation to suggest to the most cautious mind that the parcel wrapped in newspaper would spread wreckage through the station. If the guard had thrown it down knowingly and willfully, he would not have threatened the plaintiff’s safety, so far as appearances could warn him.”

Many researchers have suggested that Palsgraf was closer than the court assumed, though some suggested that it was the crowd not the explosion that tipped the proverbial scales. Here is the account from Prosser, Wade and Schwartz’s Cases and Materials on Torts, 9th edition, 1994:

The Record in this case is set out in Scott and Simpson, Cases on Civil Procedure, pp. 891-940 (1950). A study of it indicates that as described in the opinions, the event could not possibly have happened. These were apparently ordinary fireworks, and not bombs. Firecrackers were heard exploding; there was a “ball of fire” (from a Roman candle?), and a “mass of black smoke.” All this happened in the pit below the edge of the platform, which would have protected the scale. No one testified to seeing it fall over. An appreciable interval elapsed after the first noise and smoke, during which Mrs. Palsgraf said to her daughter, “Elizabeth, turn your back.” Then “the scale blew and hit me in the side.” The platform was crowded, and there was no evidence of any other damage to anybody or anything. Plaintiff’s original complaint, before amendment, alleged that the scale was knocked over by a stampede of frightened passengers. . . .
. . . There was a large crowd of excursionists, “jostling and pushing” to board a Jamaica express train. Three men, each carrying a large package, sought to board the train and a package fell to the track below. A large explosion rocked the car and tore away part of the platform and “overthrew a penny weighing machine more than ten feet away,” smashing the glass and wrecking its mechanism. The police surmised that the three men, who disappeared, were Italians “bound for an Italian celebration somewhere on Long Island, where fireworks and bombs were to play an important role.” The police decided that the event was an accident, with the man dropping the exploding package being jostled by the crowd. One of the other men dropped his parcel in the station as he fled, and it was found to contain fireworks of various kinds.

Source: Cafepress

8 thoughts on “Looking For That Perfect Gift From Your Legal Love Muffin? Look No Further”

  1. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington(CREW) and National Security Archive(NSA) filed a suit against the EOP for email and records…and the judge ordered a settlement…. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20091214/index.htm

    my case against the EOP was for emails and documents during the same time period as CREWS and NSAs suit, but the judge ruled against me….is the judiciary subject to political manipulation…see my suit on FBI wiretapping the Supreme Court… w.voinche v. FBI, 940 F.Supp. 323(DDC 1996)….no this is Amerika….

  2. Benjamin Cardozo gets a lot of accolades for being a great mind. When we were in law school we thought the case a bit odd and the use of it as a learning device even odder. It seems just as useless today.

  3. There are some good Tee-Shirts over at Nixon Rising:

    I’m vindicated. Everybody gasped and fainted like a bunch of fucking spinsters at a nursing home dance when I said that when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. Now it’s the law of the land. Vindicated. When the president takes you out, it is not illegal. When the president taps everybody’s phone, it is not illegal. Not illegal. Bomb who I want, where I want. Not illegal.

    If I had the same tools in my time that these pantywaists have in theirs, I’d still be the fucking president, dead or not. It’s my time again.

    (Nixon Rising, I’m Back). He was a lawyer.

  4. “Pretty much (rightly or wrongly) why people hate lawyers.”

    I thought that was because we all smell funny, Oro. 😉 I, for example, smell through my armpit.

  5. “Plaintiff’s original complaint, before amendment, alleged that the scale was knocked over by a stampede of frightened passengers. . . .”

    Pretty much (rightly or wrongly) why people hate lawyers.

  6. Oh raff,

    Does it not…. That damn hairy hand case came up as well…..something like foreseeable consequences and zone of danger…..

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