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Torts Keyed to Prosser
O’Brien v. Cunard S.S. Co.
Citation:154 Mass. 272, 28 N.E. 266
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O’Brien was a passenger aboard Cunard S.S. Co.’s steamship, which was traveling from Queenstown to Boston. As a safeguard against the spread of smallpox, there were strict quarantine regulations for emigrants in Boston. Only a certificate from the steamship’s medical officer or a vaccination from a port physician could permit an emigrant’s entry into the city without having to quarantine. O’Brien joined an assembly of 200 women passengers waiting for their vaccinations. When it was her turn, O’Brien showed the surgeon her arm. He told her that she would need to be vaccinated. O’Brien replied that she had been vaccinated before. It was common for a person to have a scar, or mark, on their arm after receiving the smallpox vaccine. Since there was no mark, the surgeon stated that O’Brien would need to be vaccinated again. O’Brien, saying nothing, held her arm up to be vaccinated and accepted her certificate of vaccination to enter Boston. She sued Cunard S.S. Co. for assault and for negligently vaccinating her while she was a passenger aboard the steamship.
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