Anderson v. Minnneapolis, st.p. s.stm r.r. co.


This is a fire case brought against the defendant railway company.


Plaintiff had a verdict.


The appeal is from an order denying a motion in the alternative for


judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial.


A forest fire, which originated in a bog and was found by the jury to have

                            沼澤, 泥塘

been caused by the negligence of the defendant, swept over a large area.


It merged with another fire of independent and uncertain origin, and the

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combined fires burned over plaintiff’s property.




Whether the defendant was liable that the origin fire caused by the


negligence of defendant might not cause harm to plaintiff but combine


with another fire, superior in strength but of unknown origin?


Rule of Law:

  1. if plaintiffs property was damaged by a number of fires combining


one…being the fire plead …the others being of no responsible origin, but


of such sufficient or such superior force that they would have produced


the damage to property regardless of the fire pleaded, then defendant was


not liable.


minn. 357,………….. this court considered the cook case but refrained


from expressing approval or disapproval of its doctrine. The supreme


court of Michigan has referred to it as good law….the supreme court of


Idaho says the opinion is logical and well reasoned , but the discussion is


in a large measure theoretical and academic….judge Thompson in his


work on negligence, vol.1.§739, says that the conclusion reached is so


clearly wrong as not to deserve discussion. If the cook case merely decide


that one who negligently sets a fire was not liable if another’s d property


is damaged, unless it is made to appear that the fire was a material


element in the destruction of the property, there can be no question about


the soundness of the decision. But if it decides that if such fire combines


with another of no responsible origin, and after the union of the two fires


they they destroy the property, and either fire independently of the other


would have destroyed it, then irrespective of whether the first fire was or


was not a material factor in the destruction of the property, there is no


liability , we are nor prepared to adopt the doctrine as the law of this state.


If a fire set by the engine of one railroad company unites with a fire set by


the engine of another company, there is joint and several liability , even


thought either fire would have destroyed plaintiff’s property. But if the doctrine of the cook case is applied and one of the fires is of unknown


origin, there is no liability. G.S. 1913. §4426,leaves no room for the


application of a rule which would relieve a railroad company from


liability under such circumstances. Moreover the reasoning of the court in


mcclellan v. st. paul, m & m. ry. Co. 58 minn. 104,59 n. w. 978 leads to


the conclusion that , regardless of the statute, there would be liability in


such a case. We, therefore ,hold that the trial court did not err in refusing


to  instruct the jury in accordance with rule laid down in the cook case.



  1. if the plaintiff was burned out by some fire other than the bog fire,


which other fire was not set by one of the engines, then, of course, the


defendant was not liable. if the plaintiff was burned out by fire set by one


of the defendant’s engines in combination with some other fire not set by


any of its engines, then it is liable.


  1. if you find that other fire or fires not set by one of defendants engines


mingled with one that that was set by one of the defendants engines, there


may be difficulty in determining whether you should find that the fire set


by the engine was amaterial or substantial element in causing plaintiff’s


damage. If it was, the defendant is liable, otherwise is not.


  1. if you find that bog fire was set by the defendants engine and that


some greater fire swept over it before it reached the plaintiff ‘s land., then


it will be for you to determine whether that bog fire. Was a material or


substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s damage. If it was defendant was


liable. If it is not, defendant is not liable. If the bog fire was set by one of


the defendant’s engines, and if one of the defendant’s  engines also set a


fire or fires west of kettle river, and those fires combined and burned over


plaintiff’s property, then the defendant is liable.



  We find no error requiring a reversal and hence the order appealed

from is affirmed.

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