Blyth v. Birmingham Waterworks Co. – Case Brief
Blyth v. Birmingham Waterworks Co. Exchequer, 11 Exch. 781, 156 Eng. Rep. 1047 (1856).
Facts: Birmingham Waterworks Co. (D) had installed water mains and fire plugs on the street where Blyth (P) lived. After 25 years without problems, an unusually cold frost caused one of the plugs opposite P’s house to freeze over. The damaged plug leaked a large quantity of water into P’s home. P sued D for damages based on negligence. P was awarded damages for negligence by the jury and D appealed, asserting that the severity of the frost of 1855 was unforeseeable.
Issue: What is the standard for negligence?
Holding and Rule: Negligence is determined by a reasonable person standard. A person is not negligent if his conduct and precautions conform to the standard obeyed by a prudent or reasonable person. A reasonable man would consider the usual range of temperature in recent years and act accordingly.
Disposition: Reversed – judgment for D.
Notes: A reasonable person cannot be held liable for an unforeseeable event. Negligence is an objective standard and has nothing to do with a party’s subjective state of mind.