Legal Experience You Deserve 352-796-1390

Foreseeability and the Flaming Rat: United Novelty Co. v. Daniels

  • By:David Vitola

Foreseeability is an essential component of negligence. It is closely tied to whether an act is the proximate cause of another’s injury. As we have previously discussed in a past blog, this complicated component of negligence can be difficult to prove. It can be even harder to conceptualize in a theoretical sense. That is why caselaw and examples are the best way to learn this and many other aspects of the law. One case that helps explain foreseeability well is the United Novelty Co. v. Daniels case, otherwise known as the Flaming Rat case.

United Novelty Co. v. Daniels, 42 So. 2d 395 (Miss. 1949)

In this case, a 19-year-old man named William Daniels was utilizing gasoline to clean a coin-operated machine kept in a small room owned by United Novelty Co. The small room was heated by a gas heater with an open flame. Mr. Daniels subsequently met his demise when a series of unfortunate events unfolded.

Unfortunately for Mr. Daniels, a rat was keeping itself warm inside of the machine that Mr. Daniels was cleaning. The rat was doused in gasoline as a result of Mr. Daniels cleaning. The rat, likely trying to hid from Mr. Daniels, moved towards the open flame of the gas heater, lighting the rat ablaze. Not only did the rat light itself on fire but it also lit the machine on fire, causing an explosion that killed Mr. Daniels.

Mr. Daniels family sued United Novelty Co. for wrongful death. Mr. Daniel’s family argued that Mr. Daniel was not negligent in using gasoline to clean the machine because, even though United Novelty Co. had rules against using gasoline, they also had a “duty to reasonable enforce” these rules. Id. at 3.  United Novelty Co. argued that Mr. Daniels disobeyed the company’s instructions by using the gasoline to clean the machine. However, United Novelty Co. could not substantiate these instructions with any actual evidence. Because of this failure to provide evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. Daniel’s family. The court’s reasoning was that it was not foreseeable for Mr. Daniels to know that cleaning with gasoline was this dangerous.

This is but one of the many interesting case analyses that our blogs will cover to help inform you about all sorts of topics related to the law. If you or your loved one needs legal experience on their side, call John today at 352-796-1390. If you’d like to learn more about this case, check out this link to learn more about it.

Posted in: Personal Injury Law

Call Us Now