jump to navigation

Interesting Case of the Day – “Celabratory Furniture-Throwing.” February 7, 2008

Posted by andyman in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,

So I just had this inspiration of one way that would encourage me to make more frequent, smaller posts.

It comes from this: every weekday, I start the morning by doing my law school reading for class that night. Let me describe law school textbooks to you: they’re very different from any other textbook I’ve read before.

They start by giving you a Concept/Rule. Today’s concept is “Res Ipsa Loquitur” (by the way, they’re not typically in latin, it just happens that today’s is). It briefly describes what the concept means:

“Res ipsa loquitur means, essentially, “the facts speak for themselves”. It is a doctrine of negligence law that allows a plaintiff (the person suing) to prove negligence without any evidence besides the accident itself.”

That’s pretty much all you get. What’s strange is that rather than explain this concept, it just goes right into a case. By that, I mean, an actual abridged transcript of a court case opinion, written by an actual judge. Anyway, a great many of these “cases” that you get in your textbooks are chosen either because they’re particularly relevant to the concept of the day, and, often because they’re just flat out interesting. So very often I read a case that is really interesting/funny/controversial, and I think, man, I want to tell people about this weird/special/funny case.

So, here we go. The case I’m going to share today happened in San Francisco in 1948.

LARSON v. ST. FRANCIS HOTEL (California Court of Appeals, 1948)

The accident out of which this action arose was apparently the result of the effervescence and ebullition of San Franciscans in their exuberance of joy on V-J Day, August 14, 1945. Plaintiff (who is not included in the above description), while walking on the sidewalk on Post Street adjoining the St. Francis Hotel, just after stepping out from under the marquee, was struck on the head by a heavy, overstuffed arm chair, knocked unconscious, and received injuries for which she is asking damages from the owners of the hotel. Although there were a number of persons in the immediate vicinity, no one appears to have seen from whence the chair came nor to have seen it before it was within a few feet of plaintiff’s head, nor was there any identification of the chair as belonging to the hotel. However, it is a reasonable inference that the chair came from some portion of the hotel. ….. and so on.

Haha. Anyway, I was so struck when I read that this case was about an armchair falling celabratorily out of a window that I wanted to share it.

(Interested in the outcome? Well, the lady who got hit with the armchair was trying to say that the hotel was negligent in allowing her injury. It is unknown who threw the armchair, and so she was trying to use the doctrine of ipsa-whatever that I talked about above, saying, essentially, “In this case, one does not need evidence of negligence–the fact that a chair fell out of a window is proof itself of negligence, regardless of particularities of evidence or lack thereof.” There are cases where such a thing works: for instance, a flour company dropped a barrell of flour out of their window, and it struck a passerby, and the passerby’s suit succeeded. They said, “A flour barrell falling out of a flour company’s window is proof enough that someone in the flour company was negligent.”

In this case, however, the rule does not apply, and the lady struck by the armchair loses, because “a hotel does not have exclusive control … of its furtniture–instead, they share that control with the guests of the hotel.” In this case, if you want to sue the hotel, extra evidence IS needed to show that it was the hotel, and not one of its guests, which was responsible.   Since no one could provide that extra evidence, the hotel doesn’t get in trouble.  Which is good I think, because it probably was a guest.)