Case Brief Wiki


A man was getting on to a moving train owned by the Long Island Railroad Company. Seeming unsteady, two workers of the company tried to assist him onto the train and accidentally knocked his parcel out of his hands. The parcel contained fireworks wrapped in newspaper which went off when they hit the ground. The employees did not know what was in the package. The force of the blast knocked down some scales several feet away which fell and injured Palsgraf. At trial and first appeal Palsgraf was successful, which Long Island Railroad appealed.


  1. Did the train workers’ duties of care extend to the plaintiff?
  2. Must the plaintiff be within the range of foreseeability for a duty to be owed?


nopeAppeal allowed.


Cardozo, in the majority, gives consideration to the fact that the workers had no way of knowing the contents of the parcel, and even then they could not reasonably have foreseen this outcome. He differentiates between a wrong, and a tort, stating:

if no hazard was apparent to the eye of ordinary vigilance, an act innocent and harmless, at least outward seeming, with reference to her did not take itself to the quality of a tort because it happened to be a wrong.

Here, there was nothing that would suggest to even the most cautious mind that the parcel would cause this disaster. He admits that this was an act of negligence, however negligence is not a tort unless it imports the commission of a wrong, which can only result when a right is violated. Finally, he states that when harm is not willful, the plaintiff must prove that the act had possibilities of danger so apparent as to entitle him to be protected against the act, and this is not found here.

In the dissent, Andrews talks at length about proximate cause, defining it as the arbitrary line that public policy draws to prevent tracing a series of events from a cause beyond a certain point. He states that in this case, the act was negligent and the defendant is liable for the proximate causes, and the result was a proximate cause because it resulted as a direct consequence of the negligence.


There is a reasonable limit on the extension of duty in negligent acts - if the harm is not willful, then the plaintiff must prove that the resulting injury resulted from an apparent danger inherent in the act.