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Philosophy 22B

Parker v. Hunt

Richard Hunt ran out of gas while driving his truck down Route 3 some eight miles south of the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He then parked the truck on the side of the road but the rear end (of the truck) was sticking dangerously out into the roadway. Hunt did not set out flares or any other warning signals. He did not turn on his hazard lights or switch on his left blinker. He took an empty gas can from the back of his truck and left in search of gasolene.

The Freedmans rounded the corner at a good clip (but not in excess of the speed limit) and crashed into Hunt's truck that was protruding well into the roadway. The brakes on the Freedmans' car had just been inspected and adjusted and were in good condition. Robert Freedman applied them as soon as he saw the truck but he was unable to avoid a collision. Tom Parker who was driving in the opposite direction saw the accident. It was none too difficult to miss since the Freedmans' vehicle had (now) caught fire. Parker parked his car and ran across the highway to help the Freedmans who were entangled in the wreckage.

He pulled Mrs. Freedman from the car, then Robert Freedman. Parker then took a floor mat from the passenger side to use as a pillow for Mrs. Freedman, and discovered a pistol lying on the floor. Assuming that it belonged to Mr. Freedman, he gave the pistol to him and Freedman, who had become temporarily deranged from the shock of the accident, presuming Parker to be an assailant, fired a shot in his direction, seriously wounding him in the left ankle. At this point, Hunt rounded the corner with a full can of gas only to find a mess of wrecked vehicles, an unconscious women, a trigger-happy madman, and a wounded Good Samaritan, who shortly thereafter slapped him with a hefty podiatrist bill.

Did Hunt cause Parker's injury?

Should Hunt be held liable for Parker's injuries?

In thinking about your argument, it might be helpful to evaluate the implications for a decision in this case of Hart and Honore's analysis of causal chains or Cardozo's "foreseeability" approach in Palsgraf. Under which analysis would the defendant be liable? Not liable?

You should feel free to expand upon the "facts" of this case as outlined above in order to explore how a change in this or that fact might affect your reasoning. To imagine, for example, that Robert Freedman had not become "temporarily deranged" as a result of the accident, but had "his wits about him," and had pulled out a revolver and shot Parker. Or to imagine that Robert Freedman was operating his motor vehicle at an excessive, unreasonable, and unlawful speed.

Click HERE to read the decision in THE ACTUAL CASE.

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Page last edited: February 1, 2000