Guille v Swan | 19 Johns 381


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Guille v Swan

19 Johns 381


Supreme Court of New York 1822

In error, on certiorari, to the Justice’s Court in the city of New York, Swan v Guille, in the Justices Court, in an action of trespass, for entering his close, and treading down his roots and vegetables, &c. in a garden in the city of New-York.T he facts were, that Guille ascended in a balloon in the vicinity of Swan's garden, and descended into his garden. When he descended, his body was hanging out of the car of the balloon in a very perilous situation, and he called to a person at work in Swan's field, to help him, in a voice audible to the pursuing crowd. After the balloon descended, it dragged along over potatoes and radishes, about thirty feet, when Guille was taken out. The balloon was carried to a barn at the farther end of the premises. When the balloon descended, more than two hundred persons broke into Swan's garden through the fences, and came on his premises, beating down his vegetables and flowers. The damage done by Guille, with his balloon, was about 15 dollars, but the crowd did much more. The plaintiff's damages, in all, amounted to 90 dollars. It was contended before the Justice, that Guille was answerable only for the damage done by himself, and not for the damage done by the crowd. The Justice was of the opinion, and so instructed the jury, that the defendant was answerable for all the damages done to the plaintiff. The jury, accordingly, found a verdict for him, for 90 dollars, on which the judgment was given, and for costs. The cause was submitted to the Court on return, with the briefs of counsel, stating the points and authorities.

Spencer, Ch. J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

The counsel for the plaintiff in error supposes that the injury committed by his client was involuntary, and that done by the crowd was voluntary, and that therefore there was no union of intent; and that, upon the same principle which would render Guille answerable for the acts of the crowd in treading down and destroying the vegetables and flowers of S., he would be responsible for a battery, or a murder committed on the owner of the premises. The intent with which an act is done, is by no means the test of the liability of a party to an action of trespass. If the act cause the immediate injury, whether it was intentional or unintentional, trespass is the proper action to redress the wrong . . . In Leame v Bray (3 East Rep 595) Lord Ellenborough said: If I put in motion a dangerous thing, as if I let loose a dangerous animal, and leave to hazard what may happen and mischief ensue, I am answerable in trespass; and if one (he says) put an animal or carriage in motion, which causes an immediate injury to another, he is the actor, the causa causans.

I will not say that ascending in a balloon is an unlawful act for it is not so but [I]t is certain, that the Æronaut has no control over its motion horizontally; he is at the sport of the winds, and is to descend when and how he can; his reaching the earth is a matter of hazard. He did descend on the premises of the plaintiff below, at a short distance from the place where he ascended. Now, if his descent, under such circumstances, would, ordinarily and naturally, draw a crowd of people about him, either from curiosity, or for the purpose of rescuing him from a perilous situation; all this he ought to have foreseen, and must be responsible for. Whether the crowd heard him call for help or not, is immaterial; he had put himself in a situation to invite help, and they rushed forward, impelled, perhaps, by the double motive of rendering aid, and gratifying a curiosity which he had excited. Can it be doubted, that if the plaintiff in error had beckoned to the crowd to come to his assistance, that he would be liable for their trespass in entering the enclosure? I think not. In that case, they would have been co-trespassers and we must consider the situation in which he placed himself, voluntarily and designedly, as equivalent to a direct request to the crowd to follow him. In the present case he did call for help, and may have been heard by the crowd; he is, therefor, undoubtedly liable for all the injury sustained.

Judgment affirmed.


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January 25, 2016


19 Johns 381

Supreme Court of New York

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