Trimarco was injured when the glass shower door in his apartment (owned by Klein) shattered. He was awarded $240,000 at trial. He won on the basis that the standard at the time was to have shatterproof glass in showers, and therefore his landlord was liable because he did not follow this recognized custom. Trimarco claimed that the glass did not live up to the necessary standards, however when it was installed it was up to the standards. Klein appealed on the basis that the proof for negligence was not satisfactory and that the jury was incorrectly informed.
- Is violation of an accepted standard or custom enough to create negligence?
Appeal allowed, new trial ordered.
Fuchsberg, writing for a unanimous court, held that although violation of accepted standards can contribute towards negligence, as these standards help to define the general expectation of society, this alone does not constitute negligence. There were also references made in the original decisions to statutes that did not affect Trimarco. Custom can be used in two ways:
- to argue that you have taken due care, because you have met the custom; and
- to argue that the defendant did not conform with custom, and therefore fell below the standard of care required.
However, in neither case is the custom conclusive by itself. As a result, a new trial is ordered with corrected jury instructions.
While custom can be useful in assessing the standard of care, it is not conclusive by itself.