Personal injury law comes from the law relating to torts in civil law. Tort law governs the rights and responsibilities of the unintentionally injured. Intentional or purposeful injuries are usually addressed by criminal law. Thousands of cases have shaped personal injury law. However, two cases combined to create the original concept that we are all responsible for the damage we accidently cause to others.
Two cases establish the principles of modern personal injury law. The first case involved a stonecutter who was injured when the wooden wheel of his 1910 Buick automobile collapsed. Judge Benjamin Cardozo of the New York Court of Appeals wrote in MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916), “If he is negligent, where danger is to be foreseen, a liability will follow.”
The second case is Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932). This case arose in Scotland when a Miss Donoghue became ill after drinking ginger ale poured from a bottle. She later discovered the bottle contained a dead snail. Lord Atkin wrote in the resulting opinion, “You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor.” His use of the “neighbor” principle comes from the Christian principle of loving your neighbor, found in the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan.
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