Osborne v. Montgomery – Case Brief
Osborne v. Montgomery, 234 N.W. 372 (Wis. 1931).
Facts: Montgomery (D) parked on the road and left his car door open. Osborne (P) was riding his bicycle in the street and was injured when his handlebar hit Montgomery’s open car door. At trial, the jury was left to determine whether the driver was negligent and whether Osborne was contributorily negligent. The jury instructions were questioned.
Issue: What is the basis for determining whether a particular conduct is negligent?
Holding and Rule: Negligence is not just based on harming others. Social interests determine whether an act that causes injury is negligent. Society’s interests outweigh personal interests.
Negligence is decided by a standard of care based on the mass of mankind. If one causes injury because he has departed from the standards which are followed, he should be considered negligent and therefore liable. However, we are constantly doing acts that cause injury to others which are not negligent and do not result in liability. In some cases society determines that, based on social interests, someone is not always liable for the natural consequences of his act.