O'brien v. Cunard Steamship Company

28 N.E. 266 (1891)


P was passenger on a steamship from Queenstown going to Boston. P was an immigrant. Upon arrival in Boston, if P did not have a certificate of vaccination, she would be quarantined. Cunard (D), the steamship company P was traveling with, offered vaccinations and certificates for all who desired them. Notice of this service was posted throughout the ship in different languages. 

On the day in question, it appears that about two hundred women passengers were assembled below, and she understood from conversation with them that they were to be vaccinated. The surgeon examined each, in turn, to determine if they had a prior scar from vaccination. P showed him her arm, and he looked at it and said there was no mark. He stated P should be vaccinated again. P told him she had been vaccinated before, and it left no mark. P did not tell him she did not want to be vaccinated. P even held up her arm and got the vaccination and the certificate, and she used it at quarantine. P experienced complications from the vaccination with blistering all over her body. P sued D for assault and negligence. The court directed a verdict for D and P appealed.