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Hynes v. New York Central R.R. Co.

231 N.Y. 229, 131 N.E. 898 (1921)

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Hynes v. New York Central R.R. Co.

New York Court of Appeals

231 N.Y. 229, 131 N.E. 898 (1921)

Facts

The New York Central Railroad Company (railroad) (defendant) owned property along one bank of the Harlem River, a public waterway, and had right of way adjacent to its property that extended across the river. The railroad had built a bulkhead along the riverbank and had erected poles and crossarms supporting high-tension electrical wires that were strung across the river. Swimmers had attached a wooden plank, used as a diving board, to the bulkhead and anchored one end of the plank under a rock on the railroad’s property. The plank had been used for diving for several years without interference from the railroad. Harvey Hynes, a 16-year-old boy, and his friends were swimming in the river and taking turns diving from the plank. Hynes had climbed onto the plank and was preparing to dive when a crossarm fell from one of the poles. The wires attached to the crossarm knocked Hynes into the river, killing him. Hynes’s mother (plaintiff), as administratrix of his estate, sued the railroad. The trial court held that the railroad had owed Hynes no duty of care because he was a trespasser. The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s judgment, and Hynes’s mother appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cardozo, J.)

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