Mathew was trying to start his brother's lawnmower in his
brother's garage. It caught fire and the garage was destroyed.
When the fire started, Mathew ran away instead of trying
to put it out.
Mathew's brother's insurance company (Indiana
Consolidated) didn't want to pay for the damages, so instead they sued
Mathew for negligence.
Indiana Consolidated argued that Mathew breached his duty
to his brother to exercise due care, and therefore is liable for negligence.
Btw, once an insurance company pays off a claim, the doctrine
of subrogation allows them to sue the person whose negligence
caused the damage. That's why they were allowed to sue Mathew.
The Trial Court found that Mathew was not negligent.
Indiana Consolidated appealed.
This was a bench trial, that means there was no
jury, it was the judge who was the finder of fact.
Indiana Consolidated argued that because
the evidence was so overwhelming that there was no way that a jury would
have found for Mathew. The judge should have directed a verdict for
Indiana Consolidated since there was no legitimate question of fact,
it was only a question of law.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court reviewed Mathew's actions and found that they
were within the bounds of what a reasonable person would have done in
The Court didn't have to show that Mathew was
not negligent, just that a reasonable person could possibly have
found him to not be negligent.