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TORT LAW: Supreme Court overturns liability ruling in case where stolen cab was driven on a sidewalk and hit a pedestrian

The plaintiff was injured when two tortfeasors stole a cab owned by the defendant, after the driver left the keys in the ignition of the unlocked cab in a high crime area, and the tortfeasors attempted to flee the scene of an accident by driving up on the sidewalk, striking the plaintiff.

The jury found that the cab driver’s negligence in leaving the keys in the ignition in a high crime area was a proximate of the plaintiff’s injury, but that the actions of the tortfeasors were a superseding cause of the injuries.  The Supreme Court reverses the jury’s verdict and holds that the plaintiff is entitled to a new trial based on case law holding that if the defendant is a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries then the defendant cannot be relieved from liability.

The Court reasons that it has consistently held that “if a defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor … in producing the plaintiff’s injuries, the defendant would not be relieved from liability for those injuries even though another force concurred to produce them.”  Quoting, Craig v. Driscoll, 262 Conn. 312, 335; accord Wagner v. Clark Equipment Co., 243 Conn. 180.

The Court’s holding clarifies that where a defendant is found to be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, the actions of a third party cannot be found to be a superseding cause of the injuries.

Brenda Snell v. Norwalk Yellow Cab, Inc., No. SC 19929 (August 13, 2019)