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Cooley v. Public Service Co.

New Hampshire Supreme Court
10 A.2d 673 (N.H. 1940)


Facts

A telephone company ran wires above a public street that carried signals to its customers’ private homes and to public phones. These wires were fully insulated and in compliance with standard safety precautions. Public Service Co. (Public) (defendant) was an electric company that also ran wires above the telephone company’s wires on the public street. Public’s wires were not insulated. During a heavy storm, several of Public’s wires broke and fell onto the telephone wires. This created an electric shock that burned through the wires. At the time, Cooley (plaintiff) was outside having a conversation on a public phone. The electric shock traveled through the wires and resulted in a loud explosive noise in the phone’s receiver. Cooley experienced “traumatic neurosis” from the extreme fright cause by the noise and loss of sensation on her left side. Cooley brought suit for damages against the telephone company and Public. At trial, the jury found for the telephone company and against Public. Public appealed, and the appellate court reversed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Page, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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