Adams (dumb boy) v. Bullock (trolly owner) – Case Brief

Adams v Bullock


Defendant owns a trolly line

trolly power wires are too high to reach from street level

the bridge overhead is too high for anyone to reach from above

12 year old boy is walking on bridge and swings a wire off the edge

boys 8 ft wire hits the trolly wire and is shocked and burned

Boy files suit

Procedural History

Boy wins at trial court, trial judge could have awarded new trial but didnt

Appeals finds the same, Affirms the trial court (Later reverse by Cardozo in Supreme Ct)



Court of Appeals (Supreme Court)

Trolly owner took adaqute measures to prevent accident, the only way to avoid this would be to abbandon above ground trolly wires and use them in the ground

Trolly wires cant be insulated.

Cardozo Found in Defendants favor because they took all reasonable precausions. Hiscock Chase Colin Hogan Crane Andrews CONCUR

– As a matter of law there was no negligence.

– Only an extraordinary event could let this occur

Learned hand

Loss great (burn) x Low probability (never happened before, cant reach wire)


Learned Hand Test

Magnitude of Loss x Probability = Accident Cost

If cost of prevent costs more than accident > not liable

Just a device used by Appellate Ct NOT trial courts

If it costs more to avoid it the to have it the we should just let the accident happen.

Shows the role appellate courts play

Held the overhead line could not be insulated and that the probability of the accident was very low

Learned Hand

Probability x Damages < Cost of Avoidance

Posner, generally speaking appelate courts dont usually overturn unless it points to a biased jury

Standard jury instructuion, did the Actor act as a reasonable person

Did he do something a reasonable person wouldnt, or did do what a reasonable person wouldnt

What is an ORP

They dont look at state of mind, they look at conduct

Will attribute physical aspects (blindness etc however a blind person should not drive)

If less than reasonable intelligence –> So what!?!?!

More intelligent, expert –> Is added to ORP so you must be more better

Children held to adult standards if partaking in adult activities, driving, boating, etc.

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