In Ponzio Vs Rorda, The plaintiff, Di Ponzio sued the owners of the premises after he was injured by a runaway car belonging to another customer. The plaintiff argued that the service station had an obligation to ensure that customers followed regulations, which required that their vehicle engines were turned off as the gas pumps were being operated.
The defendant, United Co. (URC) is the owner and operator of a service station based in Rochester. Richard Di Ponzio had driven into the service station on April 15th 1991, at about 1.00 pm. He went out of his car and started refilling his car’s tank. The defendant, Michael Riordan drove into the gas station, around the same time and began refilling his car’s tank. He had parked just opposite the plaintiff’s car. However, he did not turn off his engine. His car then started moving, hitting the plaintiff and breaking his leg.
The plaintiff accused the Service Station and Rordan of negligence in failing to train its employees accordingly. Rordan defended himself, saying that the pavement was level and that his car engine had a problem with ignition. This was the reason why he left his car engine running. The defendant tried to dismiss the complainant on grounds of lack of a proximate cause relationship between the negligence the plaintiff alleged and the accident, if any, lack of a cognizable legal duty and the fact that the accident was unforeseeable.
The court had to answer such questions as is there a duty of Care? Is there a proximate cause?
However, the Supreme Court objected the motion. It held that URC had the duty to exercise reasonable care.
URC appealed against this ruling. The court of Appeal declared that the defendant did not have a duty to protect customers under conditions involved in the case and which brought injury to the plaintiff. The complaint was rightfully dismissed.
I feel that the decision by the high court was fair enough. Despite the fact that the defendant had a duty of care, the aforementioned circumstances leading to the accident were difficult to prevent. Firstly, the other defendant had his side of the case, that his engine had suffered a mechanical fault. This prompted him to leave the engine running. Secondly, at the time the car hit the plaintiff, he was paying for the fuel. The case was unforeseeable. It had to be dismissed.