Strict Liability

  1. Rylands v. Fletcher
    Fletcher (D) built a water reservoir which busted and flooded Rylands' coal mine. 

    • Rule
    • A person carrying on an abnormally dangerous activity is absolutely liable for any damage caused by that activity, even though he was not negligent. 

    • Dissent
    • Judge Cairns: Fletcher shouldn't be liable b/c Fletcher was using his land in an ordinary and customary fashion and Rylands knows that nature sometimes cause reservoirs to burst and could have constructed a barrier to protect himself. 

    Note: This rule subs only for the fault element of tort liabilty. All other elements, such as causation are still in place.
  2. Strict Liability
    Liability without fault. See Rylands

    Liability that does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm, but that is based on the breach of an absolute duty to make something safe. See Miller
  3. Abnormally Dangerous Activity
    Any activity where:

    • 1. risk of human harm is great
    • 2. the harm which could materialize is great
    • 3. any damage could not have been prevented with the exercise of due care
    • 4. the activity was not one of common usage
    • 5. the activity was inappropriate to the place in which it took place
    • 6. the value to the community of the activity is not great compared to the unavoidable risk
  4. Vis Major
    An act of God
  5. Miler v. Civil Constructors, Inc.
    After Miller was struck by a stray bullet fired from D's gravel pit, he filed suit alleging strict liability. 

    • Rule
    • A defendant is liable when he damages another by a thing or activity unduly dangerous and inappropriate to the place where it is maintained, in the light of the character of that place and its surroundings. 

    • Taking the Rylands rule's factors into account:
    • the use of firearms is not ultrahazardous. The risk of harm from discharging a firearm can virtually be eliminated with ordinary care; the harm caused from firearms comes from their misuse rather than their inherent nature. Also the activity was on a firing range and no evidence says the pit was an inappropriate location.
  6. Indiana Harbor Belt R.R. Co. v. American Cyanamid Co.
    American Cyanamid loaded a railway car with toxic chemicals. At Indiana Harbor's railroad yard, the chemicals leaked causing Indiana Harbor to incur cleanup charges. 

    • Rule
    • The manufacture and shipping (as opposed to carrying) of toxic chemicals is not abnormally dangerous. 

    Plaintiff argued that the manufacturing and shipping of the chemicals was abnormally dangerous because it was on a list of hazardous materials. Court said this was too broad of a definition b/c it would make carriers and shippers of many chemicals strictly liable. Also, it wasn't the chemical that was dangerous, but somebody's negligence that caused the leak.
  7. Foster v. Preston Mill Co.
    Blasting operations by Preston Mill Co. frightened a mink owned by Foster, causing the mink to eat her kittens. 

    • Rule
    • A person carrying on an abnormally dangerous activity is not strictly liable for damage which is not within the scope of danger created by that activity.

    There must be some reasonable bounds to the liability imposed by strict liability. 

    What makes blasting an abnormally dangerous activity is the possibility of damage from flying debris or air concussions, not the possibility of a mink eating her kittens.
  8. Ultrahazardous
    An abnormally dangeorus activity
  9. Golden v. Amory
    Amory operated a dike and an hydroelectric plant. A hurricane caused the Chicopee river to overflow and cause damage to Amory's real estate.

    • Rule
    • A person carrying on an abnormally dangerous activity is not absolutely liable if damage caused by that activity was precipitated by an act of God. 

  10. Sandy v. Bushey
    Sandy's horse was on Bushey's property. When Sandy went to feed his horse, Bushey's horse kicked Sandy, causing injury. 

    • Rule
    • The owner of an animal known to the owner to be vicious is strictly liable for damage caused by the animal. Contributory negligence is not a defense to strict liability. 

    At common law, there was no liability for injury caused by a domestic animal if the animal was in a place where it had right to be. But there was strict liability  if the animal caused damage and was known to the owner to be vicious. In this case, the horse was known to Bushey to be vicious. 

    to escape liability D must show that P actively put himself in a position to bring the injury upon himself. This was NOT the case here. Sandy actually tried to avoid injury by leading the horse away. 

    Meets 5th element established b/c vicious animals have no place near humans.
  11. Vicious Animal
    An animal known to the owner to have violent tendencies.
Card Set
Strict Liability
Torts II Spring 2014 Strict Liability