Halloran v. Virginia Chemicals
41N.Y.2d 386, 393 N.Y.S.2d 341, 361 N.E.2d 991 (1977)

  • Halloran was a mechanic.  He was working with a can of refrigerant made by Virginia when it exploded and he was injured.  He sued for product liability.
    • Virginia argued that Halloran heated the can up too hot, ignoring the warning labels on the product and making himself contributorily negligent.
  • At trial, Virginia attempted to introduce testimony that Halloran had in the past, often used a heater to heat the can.
    • Halloran objected on the grounds that evidence was inadmissible.
    • Virginia argued that the evidence was admissible under FRE 406 to show that Halloran had a habit of heating the cans of refrigerant.
  • The Trial Judge excluded the evidence.
    • The Trial Judge found that Halloran didn’t always heat the cans, therefore it wasn’t a habit.
  • The Trial Court found for Halloran.  Virginia appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.  Virginia appealed.
  • The New York Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    • The New York Supreme Court found that Virginia isn’t required to show that Halloran always heated the cans, only that he did so on a regular basis.
      • If Virginia could show that Halloran heated cans on a ‘regular’ basis, then the evidence would be admissible and Halloran could argue how much weight to give it.
        • It was left up to the Trial Court to determine how many instances of conduct Virginia would have to show in order for Halloran’s conduct to be considered ‘regular’.