Ventricelli v. Kinney System Rent A Car, Inc.

Decision Date02 November 1978
Citation45 N.Y.2d 950,383 N.E.2d 1149,411 N.Y.S.2d 555
Parties, 383 N.E.2d 1149 Joseph VENTRICELLI, Appellant-Respondent, v. KINNEY SYSTEM RENT A CAR, INC., et al., Respondents-Appellants, and Antonio Maldonado, Respondent. KINNEY SYSTEM RENT A CAR, INC., et al., Third-Party Respondents-Appellants, v. AMERICAN MOTORS CORP. et al., Third-Party Respondents.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
OPINION OF THE COURT MEMORANDUM.

Order of the Appellate Division affirmed, with costs. Proximate cause and foreseeability are relative terms, "nothing more than a convenient formula for disposing of the case" (Prosser, Law of Torts (4th ed.), § 43, p. 267). In writing of the "orbit of the duty", Chief Judge Cardozo said "(t)he range of reasonable apprehension is at times a question for the court, and at times, if varying inferences are possible, a question for the jury" (Palsgraf v. Long Is. R. R. Co., 248 N.Y. 339, 345, 162 N.E. 99, 101). So it is with proximate cause and foreseeability (compare Sheehan v. City of New York, 40 N.Y.2d 496, 502-503, 387 N.Y.S.2d 92, 95-96, 354 N.E.2d 832, 834-835, and Rivera v. City of New York, 11 N.Y.2d 856, 227 N.Y.S.2d 676, 182 N.E.2d 284, with Pagan v. Goldberger, 51 A.D.2d 508, 511-512, 382 N.Y.S.2d 549, 551-552).

Although the negligence of the automobile renter, defendant Kinney, is manifest, and was, of course, a "cause" of the accident, it was not the proximate cause. "What we do mean by the word 'proximate' is, that because of convenience, of public policy, of a rough sense of justice, the law arbitrarily declines to trace a series of events beyond a certain point" (Palsgraf v. Long Is. R. R. Co., 248 N.Y. 339, 352, 162 N.E. 99, 103, Supra (Andrews, J., dissenting)). The immediately effective cause of plaintiff's injuries was the negligence of Maldonado, the driver of the second car, in striking plaintiff while he was standing behind his parked automobile. That Kinney's negligence in providing an automobile with a defective trunk lid would result in plaintiff's repeated attempts to close the lid was reasonably foreseeable. Not "foreseeable", however, was the collision between vehicles both parked a brief interval before the accident. Plaintiff was standing in a relatively "safe" place, a parking space, not in an actively traveled lane. He might well have been there independent of any negligence of Kinney, as, for example, if he were loading or unloading the trunk. Under these circumstances, to hold the accident a foreseeable consequence of Kinney's negligence is to stretch the concept of foreseeability beyond acceptable limits (see Prosser, Law of Torts (4th ed.), pp. 267-270; Restatement, Torts 2d, § 435, subd. 2).

FUCHSBERG, Judge (dissenting).

When Dean Prosser suggested that proximate cause may at times seem to be "nothing more than a convenient formula for disposing of the case", he also observed that the existence of proximate cause must " 'be determined on the facts of each case upon mixed considerations of logic, common sense, justice, policy and precedent' " (Prosser, Law of Torts (4th ed.), § 42, pp. 267, 249).

The generality of both these statements recognizes that torts is a branch of the law in which the decisional process is usually so dependent on the vagaries of particular facts in individual cases that it calls for a high degree of flexibility in judgment (see Pound, Introduction to the Philosophy of Law, 139). Thus, disputes as to whether conduct is negligent, contributorily negligent or the proximate cause of an injury are usually best left to the fact finder. Since the record here convinces me that this case fails well within the range of these cautions, I believe the Trial Judge did not err as a matter of law in leaving the issue of proximate cause to the jury.

Ample was the proof that, to the knowledge of the rental company, the trunk door on the automobile it furnished to the plaintiff had a penchant for flying open so as to obstruct...

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  • Fontaine v. Ryan
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • December 13, 1993
    ...Sheraton-Smithtown Inn, 121 A.D.2d 711, 504 N.Y.S.2d 56, 58 (2d Dep't 1986); see also Ventricelli v. Kinney System Rent A Car, Inc., 45 N.Y.2d 950, 411 N.Y.S.2d 555, 556, 383 N.E.2d 1149, 1150 (1978). If the assault was foreseeable, Pinkerton's may be liable if it did not take adequate secu......
  • Johnson v. Johnson Chemical Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • October 13, 1992
    ...N.E.2d 264; Martinez v. Lazaroff, supra; Ventricelli v. Kinney Sys. Rent a Car, 59 A.D.2d 869, 399 N.Y.S.2d 237, aff'd, 45 N.Y.2d 950, 411 N.Y.S.2d 555, 383 N.E.2d 1149, mod. on other grounds, 46 N.Y.2d 770, 413 N.Y.S.2d 655, 386 N.E.2d In accordance with this authority, we conclude that th......
  • Burlington Ins. Co. v. Nyc Transit Auth.
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    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 6, 2017
    ...justice, the law arbitrarily declines to trace a series of events beyond a certain point' " ( Ventricelli v. Kinney Sys. Rent A Car, 45 N.Y.2d 950, 952, 411 N.Y.S.2d 555, 383 N.E.2d 1149 [1978], amended 46 N.Y.2d 770, 413 N.Y.S.2d 655, 386 N.E.2d 263 [1978], quoting Palsgraf v. Long Is. R.R......
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    ...justice, the law arbitrarily declines to trace a series of events beyond a certain point’ " ( Ventricelli v. Kinney Sys. Rent A Car, 45 N.Y.2d 950, 952, 411 N.Y.S.2d 555, 383 N.E.2d 1149 [1978], amended 46 N.Y.2d 770, 413 N.Y.S.2d 655, 386 N.E.2d 263 [1978], quoting Palsgraf v. Long Is. R.R......
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1 books & journal articles
  • A Review of Torts and Compensation: Personal Accountability and Social Responsibility for Injury
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 25-04, June 2002
    • Invalid date
    ...Sheehan v. City of New York, 354 N.E.2d 832 (N.Y. 1976), reprinted in id., at 229-30, and Ventricelli v. Kinney System Rent A Car, Inc., 383 N.E.2d 1149 (N.Y. 1978), modified in 386 N.E.2d 263 (N.Y. 1978), reprinted in id., at 44. Third Edition Teacher's Manual, supra note 24, at 252. 45. I......

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