On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellant, T. Millet Hand.
For the respondent, Albert S. Woodruff and William Harris.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
LLOYD, J. The appeal in this case is by the Jersey Coast News Company from a judgment rendered against it at the suit of the plaintiff for injuries received through coming in contact with a charged electric light wire which it was alleged was caused to fall into the highway as a result of the negligence of the appellant's driver.
The story as told by the plaintiff was that he was driving north on the public highway between Laurelton and Point Pleasant in Ocean county. Defendant's truck, also driving north, passed him at a speed of fifty to sixty miles an hour, skidded across the highway and finally left the road, striking an electric light pole, breaking it and causing the pole and wire to sag partly across the highway. The road was icy and claimed by the plaintiff for this reason to be especially dangerous. The plaintiff's story additionally was that, observing the accident, he got out of his car and ran to the assistance of the driver of the truck who, he said, was under the truck, and as he did so he came into contact with the charged wires and was severely burned.
Numerous errors are alleged, the principal of which are that the court refused to control the case by nonsuit or direction of a verdict for the defendant. In arguing these points appellant insists that there was no proof of negligence, that the injury was not the proximate result of any negligence that might have existed, and that the defendant owed no duty to the plaintiff with respect to the injuries received, in that the latter was a volunteer attempting to assist one to whom he was under no obligation to render aid.
We think the trial judge properly submitted the case to the jury. The truck was going at a prohibited speed; it had an icy pavement on the highway as additional precaution against extreme speed. This was evidence of negligence, the natural result of which would be the skidding which took place. Skidding, one may come to rest at any point in the highway or on either side, and in doing so, if on either side, come into collision with whatever might be there present (in this case an electric light pole) a natural result of which would be to disturb it and possible knock it down as here happened. It is known to every driver in the highway that these poles carry high electric charges and that collision with them and bringing those wires to the ground would naturally endanger the users of the highway. This situation and the conditions which the driver was bound to anticipate answer the first two grounds of appeal.
As to the third ground, the plaintiff was a user of the highway. Seeing the driver of the truck pinned under his truck he naturally went to his assistance. It is true that he was not obliged to do so under the law, but he was upon the highway and as such had a right to exercise a power to either aid in removing the obstruction or assisting anyone who appeared to be in danger.
As we view this case it does not come within the class known as rescue cases in which the law has been variously determined in courts of justice. These are all cases of obvious danger and risk to the rescuing party, like one jumping overboard to save another's life or rescuing one from a burning building. Here, so far as appearances were concerned,
there was nothing that necessarily and obviously suggested danger. It is true there was an electric were with which the plaintiff came into contact, but that the danger of it was so obvious that he ought to have been, as a matter of law, held to avoid it on the theory that he was running into extreme danger as a rescuer would seem not to be the case. For this reason it ...