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Vosburg v. Putney

Wisconsin Supreme Court
50 N.W. 403 (1891)


 

Facts

Vosburg (plaintiff) and Putney (defendant) were both students in the same school in 1889. One day, while both were sitting across the aisle from each other at school, Putney reached his leg over and lightly kicked Vosburg in the shin. Vosburg did not feel this kick. However, several moments later, Vosburg experienced extreme pain in the area of the kick which gradually worsened and made him extremely ill over the next few days. Prior to the kick, Vosburg had suffered an additional injury to the same leg above his knee, but this wound was healing. A doctor examined and performed an operation on Vosburg’s shin. His leg was found to be in a diseased state. The doctor believed bacteria entered Vosburg’s leg from his previous injury above his knee and spread to his shin. Putney’s kick activated the bacteria and caused it to eat away at Vosburg’s flesh and bone. Vosburg completely lost use of his leg and brought suit for assault and battery against Putney. The trial court awarded Vosburg $2,800.00, and Putney appealed. The appellate court granted a new trial, and the jury found that Putney intended to do no harm to Vosburg by kicking him. The trial court reduced the damages to $2,500.00, and Putney appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lyon, J.)

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Questions & Answers


Why were children with a three-year age gap in the same class?

The only schoolrooms I can think of with such a spread-out age gap would be activities like homeroom, lunch, and added extracurricular courses. All of these options would have less order or less restrictive rules than a classroom, calling the reasoning behind the "forbidden nature" of the kick into question.

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