Blair v. Durham – Case Brief
Blair v. Durham, 134 F.2d 729 (6th Cir. 1943).
Facts: Blair was the general contractor in charge of repair and improvements on a federal government office building in Nashville, Tennessee. Nelle Durham (P), a stenographic clerk in the Social Security Division in the building, was struck in the head by a piece of timber falling from a scaffold.
Durham brought suit to recover for her injuries and alleged in her complaint that, by reason of negligence and carelessness of Blair or its employees, she sustained injury when a large piece of board fell from scaffolding onto her head.
P later requested consent to file an amended complaint alleging that D had erected the scaffolding, that it would not protect persons required to work underneath it, and that D might have reasonably anticipated that heavy objects were likely to fall from it. The court granted the request. D filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the amended complaint stated a new cause of action barred by the statute of limitations. The court awarded $6,500 to P and D appealed.
Issue: Where multiple grounds for negligence are alleged to have caused the same injury, does a separate cause of action arise from each ground?
Holding and Rule: No. Where multiple grounds for negligence are alleged to have caused the same injury, a separate cause of action does not arise from each ground.
The court held that an amendment does not set up a new cause of action so long as the cause of action alleged grows out of the same transaction and is basically the same or is identical in the essential elements upon which the right to sue is based and upon which D’s duty to perform is alleged to have arisen.
An alteration of the modes in which defendant has breached the legal duty or caused the injury is not an introduction of a new cause of action. The true test is whether the proposed amendment is a different matter or the same matter more fully or differently laid.
The court held that under these facts, P relied on the same unlawful violation of duty. The fact that one complaint alleged negligence in use of the scaffold and the other alleged negligence in construction was not enough to state a new cause of action.
Notes: This case frequently is cited incorrectly as Blair v. Durham, 139 F.2d 260 (6th Cir. 1943), a separate appeal on a different issue in the same case.