In Rieder v. Garfield Manor Corp., 164 Va. 192, 178 S.E. 677, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia held that the defendant exercised the proper degree of care as a matter of law in storing dynamite caps, and when a boy broke into the storehouse, which was securely fastened, and climbed up to a rafter and obtained caps that had been placed out of danger, and was injured by an explosion of one of them, he could not recover.Summary of this case from Taylor v. United States
March 14, 1935
Present, All the Justices.
1. EXPLOSIONS AND EXPLOSIVES — Injury to Child by Explosion of Fuse Cap — Insufficiency of Evidence to Show Negligence of Defendant — Case at Bar. — In the instant case, an action to recover for injuries suffered by plaintiff, a seven-year-old boy, when a fuse cap, which he had secured from a building belonging to defendant, exploded in his hand, the action of the trial court in striking out all plaintiff's evidence on the ground that it was insufficient to support a verdict finding that defendant was guilty of any negligence, was assigned as error. The evidence showed that sometime previous to the date of the accident plaintiff had broken the lock on the door of the building and defendant fastened it with a hasp and staple and some nails. Another boy who had secured some of the caps exploded them in plaintiff's presence and told plaintiff where he had gotten them. Plaintiff entered the building by bending the nails which secured the door and got a box of the caps from a rafter ten feet above the floor. He was later advised by older boys to put the box back because the caps might explode and he finally did so but took out and kept several of the caps. While picking at one of these with a knife it exploded and injured him.
Held: That there was no error in the trial court's action.
2. EXPLOSIONS AND EXPLOSIVES — Injury to Child by Explosion of Fuse Cap — Lack of Causal Connection between Condition of Building Where Caps Were Kept and Entry Thereof by Child — Case at Bar. — The instant case was an action to recover for injuries suffered by plaintiff, a seven-year-old boy, when a fuse cap exploded in his hand. Plaintiff secured the caps from a building belonging to defendant, gaining entry by bending aside the nails which held down the hasp on the door. There was much evidence as to the flimsy construction and general disrepair of the building.
Held: That there was no causal connection between the flimsy construction and disrepair of the building and the entry of it by the plaintiff.
3. EXPLOSIONS AND EXPLOSIVES — Injury to Child by Explosion of Fuse Cap — Manner of Entry Into Building Where Caps Were Kept — Due Care of Defendant to Make Door Secure — Case at Bar. — The instant case was an action to recover for injuries suffered by plaintiff, a seven-year-old boy, when a fuse cap, secured by him from a building belonging to defendant, exploded in his hand. Previous to the time of the accident plaintiff had broken the lock on the building and defendant fastened the door with a hasp and staple, driving several large nails in the door above the hasp and bending them over to prevent its being lifted. Plaintiff, using a stone, bent the nails up so as to permit him to lift the hasp and enter the building.
Held: That defendant had used reasonable care to make the door secure against the entry of children; and was not chargeable with negligence because it did not so secure the door so as to make it impossible for a seven-year-old boy, on mischief bent, to forcibly break the fastening and enter the building.
Error to a judgment of the Circuit Court of Arlington county in an action of trespass on the case. Judgment for defendant. Plaintiff assigns error.
The opinion states the case.
Amos C. Crounse, H. W. Dudley and Frank L. Ball, for the plaintiff in error.
Charles Henry Smith, C. R. Ahalt and John Locke Green, for the defendant in error.
This is an action of trespass on the case brought by Lothar F. Rieder, an infant, who sues by Frederick Rieder, his next friend, against Garfield Manor Corporation. The injury complained of occurred on September 1, 1931, at which time plaintiff was seven years and three months old. The material allegations made in the declaration are as follows:
The defendant owned, maintained and controlled a small building in which it stored certain tools and utensils and also some fuse caps, which it knew to be violently explosive when tampered with. There were a number of dwelling houses in the vicinity of this building; and the defendant knew that the parcel of land upon which this building stood was used and frequented by children living in its vicinity.
"* * * in disregard of its duty in that behalf [the defendant] so carelessly and negligently kept the door to said * * * building so loosely fastened, that the said plaintiff * * * while playing with other children of tender years, on said tract of land, and around and near said * * * building, entered said * * * building through the door thereof, and * * * not knowing what said fuse caps * * * were, or that said fuse caps * * * contained explosive matter, * * * took some of said fuse caps * * * in his hands, one of which * * * exploded in the [his] hands * * * with such force and violence that * * * his left hand and other parts of his body were severely * * * injured."
Upon motion of the defendant the court struck out all the plaintiff's evidence on the ground that it was insufficient to support a verdict finding that the defendant was guilty of any negligence. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant upon which the court entered judgment dismissing the action.
The action of the court in striking out all the plaintiff's evidence is assigned as error. We find no error in the court's action in so doing.
The plaintiff's own evidence shows the following pertinent facts. A short time prior to September 1, the plaintiff had broken the padlock on the door to this building and entered it. When the defendant discovered that the lock had been broken, it fastened the door with a hasp and staple, drove some large nails in the door above the hasp, and bent them over the hasp to prevent its being lifted. A few days prior to September 1st, an older boy, Leonard Thrasher, had entered this building and taken therefrom some fuse caps, which he and other boys in the presence of the plaintiff exploded by wrapping paper around them and setting the paper afire. This boy told the plaintiff where he had gotten these caps. On the day he was injured the plaintiff went to this building for the purpose of getting some of these caps. Finding the door fastened in the manner above stated, he took a stone and using it bent the nails up so as to permit him to lift the hasp, then unfasten the door and enter the building. The caps were stored in a box placed upon a rafter that was about ten feet above the floor. He climbed up on an automobile truck that was stored in the building and thus reached the box of caps which he took and carried away. He carried them around with him for a while and then showed the box of caps to some older boys. One of them told him to put them back where he had found them, "because they might explode in your pocket." Finally he took the box back and put it up on the rafter from which he had gotten it; but before doing so took out and kept several of the caps.
He came back to where the boys were, began picking at the inside of one of the caps with a match stick, and remarked "how hard it was inside." Thereupon, one of the boys, Leonard Thrasher, told the plaintiff "to pick inside of it [with a knife] and see what happened." The plaintiff did so and it exploded, injuring him.
[2, 3] There is much evidence as to the flimsy construction and general disrepair of this building; but plainly there was no causal connection between the flimsy construction and disrepair of the building and the entry of it by the plaintiff. He entered through the door and to do so had to and did forcibly break the fastening of the door. The defendant had used reasonable care to make this door secure against the entry of children; and is not chargeable with negligence because it did not so secure the door so as to make it impossible for a seven-year-old boy, on mischief bent, to forcibly break the fastening and enter the building.