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Hoyt v. Jeffers

Michigan Supreme Court
30 Mich. 181 (1874)


Facts

Jeffers (defendant) owned and operated a saw mill. The mill had a chimney from which sparks were seen to escape regularly. The mill was located near a hotel owned and operated by Hoyt (plaintiff). Hoyt’s hotel caught fire and burned down. No one saw the fire begin or what caused the fire, but Hoyt believed sparks emanating from Jeffers’ mill through its chimney caused the fire. Jeffers had increased the height of the chimney just prior to the fire, but sparks had been seen to escape both before and after the chimney was changed. Hoyt filed suit and the matter went to trial. Hoyt was permitted to introduce evidence showing that sparks had escaped from the chimney on previous occasions, that there had been previous fires due to the sparks, that the hotel had been set on fire previously due to the sparks, and that clothes hanging on clothes lines near the mill had often had holes burnt in them or were sooty due to the sparks. Jeffers objected to the entry of the evidence, claiming that the chimney had been substantially changed since the incidents referred to in Hoyt’s evidence. The jury entered a verdict for Hoyt. Jeffers appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Christiancy, J.)

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