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D.C. Circuit Has Fun With Freud and Solon

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler pointed to an opinion issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday, in which the court refreshingly found a way to weave some whimsy into an otherwise not particularly funny incident.

The case, Sigmund v. Starwood Urban Retail VI, LLC, represents a gentleman's attempt to collect some cash on a negligence theory as a result of his being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place being an SUV, the wrong time being when the bomb rigged by his half brother in an attempt to kill their father happened to go boom. The plaintiff, who sustained some serious injuries, sued the owners of the garage where the car was parked, based on the fact that at the time the bomb was placed the garage door was broken (it was stuck in the open position).

The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the garage owners, on the grounds that the intervening criminal act of the plaintiff's kin was not foreseeable. And the court started the opinion with flair:

Solon, the ancient Athenian lawgiver, made no law against patricide because he thought it impossible that anyone could commit so unnatural a crime. Two and a half millennia later, Freud famously claimed the opposite -- that every son harbors murderous impulses toward his father. In this case, we side with the lawyer not the psychoanalyst. Donald Sigmund, the accidental victim of a car bomb that his half-brother intended for their father, cannot recover from the third-party defendants he has sued unless his half-brother’s crime was foreseeable. We conclude that neither that crime nor any similar one was foreseeable, and thus affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Kudos to Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit (or his clerk), and also to the Volokh commenter who noted that the plaintiff's last name was likely the judge's inspiration.

Posted by Eric Lipman on August 18, 2010 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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