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Case: Dillon v.

Twin State Gas & Electric

Parties: Plaintiff - Dillon

Defendant - Twin State Gas & Electric

Procedural History: In trail court, defendant moves for directed verdict

(plaintiff has not satisfied elements for prima facie case; ruling by trial judge
taking case away from jury b/c the evidence will permit only one reasonable
verdict), but was denied. The jury could not agree on a verdict. Trial judge
then transferred the case to New Hampshire Supreme Court on the defendant's
exception (formal objection to court's ruling) to the denial of its motion for a
directed verdict.

Facts: Twin states maintained uninsulated electrical wires running across a

bridge, where it was common for boys to climb up on. The decedent, a 14 year old
boy, had climbed atop the bridge, near such wires, and after losing his balance,
grabbed one of the wires to save himself from falling, which happened to have a
very high voltage, resulting in the boy's death by electrocution.

Issue: But for the uninsulated wires, would the boy have died or suffered serious

Holding: Exception Overruled. Def not entitled to directed verdict.

Reasoning: Possible that boy would have fallen off bridge, which could have lead
to death or serious injury, but defendant would not then be liable. However, if
the wire was insulated, the boy may have survived, regaining his balance, with or
without the help of the wire. If not for being electrocuted, the boy may have
survived. Also, Twin States knew that boys habitually climbed in the area, so they
were negligent, even though the boys were trespassing (another topic).


Injury caused by negligence but injured was already in harm's way.

But-for test satisfied - and there is actual harm
Problem - death may be hastened, but may have still died. Was death imminent when
he lost his balance and was about to fall, or when he grabbed the wire.

Court said:
○ Electrocution vs. other injury/death that could have occurred
○ Jury will have to make a factual determination if wire was insulated (no
§ If he would have fallen to his death, limit liability to only one
second of life for damages
§ If he would have fallen but survived but been crippled, damages diff
btwn boy dead and boy crippled
§ If he would have been saved un-electrocuted, damages diff btwn death
& life
○ Limitations on this line of inquiry
§ Circumstances where using this rule would have absurd results
§ Ex. Negligent driving, kill someone. Person was on way to airport, to
catch a flight that would have crashed, with no survivors