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Tag Archive for O’Brien v. Cunnard

Raise Your Hands In The Air Like You Just Don’t Care

One of the classic Paper Chase cases, albeit from a different first-year course than the one that the late, great John Houseman taught, is 1891’s O’Brien v. Cunnard S.S. Co., Ltd. Mary O’Brien, an Irish immigrant on board a ship from Queenstown to Boston, held up her arm to be vaccinated against smallpox, a duty which the ship’s surgeon dutifully performed. She later claimed that the vaccination was an assault because the doctor “used force on the plaintiff against her will” and that he was “negligent” during the procedure, although the facts are a bit hazy as to exactly what this learned physician did, or did not, do. Although Ms. O’Brien was a new citizen, she apparently knew enough about the system to call a lawyer and sue everyone in sight.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court eventually ruled that Ms. O’Brien consented to the Read more