Bell v. Campbell
In Bell v. Campbell, 434 S.W.2d 117, 12 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 86 (Tex. 1968), While driving along a highway, Bell came upon a traffic accident. Id.
A trailer--originally attached to a truck involved in the collision--had disengaged and lay overturned in one lane of the highway. Id.
Bell and others stopped and attempted to remove the trailer from the highway. Id. at 119. As Bell worked to move the overturned trailer, another car struck the trailer, injuring Bell. Id.
Faced with the dilemma of deciding whether the initial accident caused Bell's injuries, the Texas Supreme Court did not turn to premises liability theory. Mentioning premises liability not once, the Court relied instead on ordinary negligence principles and specifically focused on causation saying, "the controlling question is one of causation." Id. at 118.
And, while the initial accident made the subsequent collision possible, that fact was not the primary indicator of causation. Rather, the primary indicator was whether "all forces involved in or generated by the first collision had come to rest and no one was in any real or apparent danger therefrom." Id. at 120. Thus, almost forty years ago, the Texas Supreme Court confirmed that general negligence principles apply to a setting like the one here. See id. at 118-123.
The Court held that the drivers whose collision caused a trailer attached to one of the vehicles to disengage and overturn into the opposite lane were not liable for the injuries the plaintiffs sustained when they were struck by another driver while attempting to move the trailer. 434 S.W.2d at 118-19.
The court reasoned that the collision was too attenuated to constitute legal cause. Because the forces generated by the collision had run their course and were complete when the plaintiffs were injured, the collision did not actively contribute to the injuries and merely created the condition for their occurrence. Id.
In the accident, the trailer broke off and came to rest on the highway. Id. People stopped to help move the trailer off the highway. Id
As they were doing so, another vehicle struck three of the people, killing two of them. Id. at 118-19.
The people struck in the second accident sued the drivers in the first accident. Id. at 118.
Because the vehicles and unhooked trailer had come to rest before a passing car struck the people helping to move the trailer out of the roadway, the supreme court determined the defendants' negligence was not a proximate cause because the forces generated by their negligence had come to rest when the plaintiffs' injuries occurred. Id. at 122.
In sum, two cars collided and a trailer attached to one of the cars disengaged and overturned into the opposite lane. 434 S.W.2d at 119.
Three people were attempting to move the trailer when they were struck by another vehicle. See id.
In holding that the first accident was not the legal cause of the plaintiffs' injuries, the court reasoned that "all acts and omissions charged against respondents had run their course and were complete. Their negligence did not actively contribute in any way to the injuries involved in this suit." Bell, 434 S.W.2d at 122.
The supreme court held that the drivers of the two vehicles in the first collision had not proximately caused the second collision between the intoxicated driver and the three men attempting to remove the trailer from the road. Id. at 122-123.
The court stated that "all forces involved in or generated by the first collision had come to rest, and no one was in any real or apparent danger therefrom." Id. at 120.