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04/01/76 JORDAN v. WHITING CORPORATION

April 1, 1976

JORDAN
v.
WHITING CORPORATION



Kavanagh, C. J., and Williams, Coleman, and Fitzgerald, JJ., concurred. Levin, Lindemer, and Ryan, JJ., took no part in the decision of this case.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Evidence -- Negligence -- Presumptions -- Due Care -- Directed Verdict -- Wrongful Death.

The presumption that a decedent had exercised reasonable care for his own safety at the time of his fatal injury pertains to the conduct of the decedent rather than the conduct of the defendants in a wrongful death action; the presumption of due care and the manner in which it was to be applied were not relevant to a directed verdict for defendants in a case where the plaintiff's proofs respecting defendants' negligence were lacking.

2. Negligence -- Wrongful Death -- Evidence -- Directed Verdict.

A directed verdict was proper in an action for wrongful death where there was no evidence in the record which established that the decedent's death was causally connected with the defendant's alleged failure to ground a piece of electrically operated equipment properly.

3. Negligence -- Causal Connection -- Evidence.

The mere possibility that a defendant's negligence may have been the cause, either theoretical or conjectural, of an accident is not sufficient to establish a causal link between the two.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

John C. Jordan was electrocuted while repairing an overhead crane on the premises of C. A. Roberts Company. Thelma L. Jordan, administratrix of the decedent's estate, brought an action in warranty and negligence against Whiting Corporation, the manufacturer of the crane parts, Dearborn Fabricating & Engineering Company, the assembler of the crane parts, and N & K Electric Company, the electrical contractor which performed certain services in initially electrifying the crane. The Wayne Circuit Court, Nathan J. Kaufman, J., directed a verdict in favor of all three defendants. Upon remand by the Court of Appeals for reconsideration the trial court reconsidered the directed verdict and granted a new trial with respect to all defendants. The Court of Appeals, V. J. Brennan, P. J., and Quinn and O'Hara, JJ., affirmed (Docket No. 11580). On rehearing, the Court of Appeals reversed itself and reinstated the directed verdict as to all counts against defendants except the count against Dearborn Fabricating alleging negligence in failure to ground the electrical system of the crane. Plaintiff and defendant Dearborn Fabricating & Engineering Company appeal. Held:

1. The presumption of due care pertains to the conduct of the decedent, not the defendants, and the manner in which it was applied was not relevant to the critical determination made by the courts below, which was that the plaintiff's proofs respecting the defendants' negligence were lacking.

2. There is no evidence in the record which establishes that the decedent's death was causally connected with Dearborn Fabricating's alleged failure to ground the crane properly. Plaintiff's expert witness could not testify as to decedent's location on the crane or whether the grounding had any causal connection with his death.

3. The mere possibility that a defendant's negligence may have been the cause, either theoretical or conjectural, of an accident is not sufficient to establish a causal link between the two.

4. The Disposition of the case makes unnecessary the resolution of whether the defendants were "prevailing parties" within the meaning of GCR 1963, 526.1 and 822. The award of one-half the costs to N & K and Whiting against Dearborn Fabricating was error.

The directed verdict in favor of Dearborn Fabricating is reinstated. The award of costs to N & K and Whiting against ...


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