Cohen v. Petty – Case Brief
Cohen v. Petty, 62 App. D.C. 187, 65 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1933).
Facts: Petty’s (D) guest, Cohen (P), was injured when Petty lost control of his car and crashed into an embankment on the side of the road. Cohen sustained permanent injuries. Evidence was introduced showing that the accident may have been caused when Petty suddenly fainted. Petty introduced undisputed evidence that he had never fainted prior to the accident.
The trial court entered a directed verdict in Petty’s favor, holding that no action in negligence can lie when the act causing injury was involuntary, unanticipated, and outside the control of the actor. Cohen appealed.
Issue: If a party does not know and has no reason to know of the possibility of an event, will the party be held liable for damages arising from event?
Holding and Rule: No. If a party does not know and has no reason to know of the possibility of an event the party will not be held liable damages arising from event.
Negligence is the failure to exercise the care and prudence of a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstance. The event must be foreseeable for there to be negligence. Petty did not know and had no reason to know that he would faint because he had never fainted prior to the accident.
Notes: The court issued a directed verdict because the plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of producing evidence sufficient to prove his prima facie case.