The Law School Authority

Bridges v. The Kentucky Stone Co. Case Brief

Summary of Bridges v. The Kentucky Stone Co., S. Ct. Indiana [1981]

Abnormally Dangerous Activities

Relevant Facts: Df William Webb had intentionally caused an explosion of dynamite at the home of Pl.  The explosion killed Pl’s twelve year old son, injured him, and another son.  Kentucky Stone was named a Df b/c it had “negligently kept and stored,” dynamite and other ultra hazardous explosives at it Tyrone Plant.  This permitted Webb to obtain the explosives used at Pl’s home.

Legal Issue(s): Whether an absolute liability should be imposed against Kentucky Stone on the basis it was engaged in an ultra hazardous activity, the storage of dynamite?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Trial ct. granted summary to Kentucky.  Ct. of App. reversed.  S. Ct Ind. vacated reversal and reimposed judgment of trial ct.

Law or Rule(s): An activity is deemed ultra hazardous when: the risk of harm is great; and the harm that would ensue if the risk materialized could be great; such could be prevented by the exercise of due care; the activity is not a matter in common usage(highly valuable vs unavoidable risk); the activity was inappropriate to the place in which it took place; the value to the community of the activity is not great enough to offset its unavoidable risks.

Court Rationale:   Unlike YUKON the consequence of the assumed negligent storage was not contemporaneous(to the side-secondary), damage to the inhabitants and property of the area surrounding the storage site.  Rather the blast occurred nearly 3 weeks after the theft, at a location over one hundred miles from the storage site.  The disappearance of the dynamite was reported w/i 24 hrs of discovery as required.  The theft of the materials, the transporting them, the preparation necessary to the discharge, and the eventual trespass and detonation at the Pl residence was a superceding cause of the blast precluding liability upon Kentucky.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Kentucky was the manufacturer and operator of the storage of highly dangerous materials, a ultra hazardous activity, and it negligent storage of the material lead to the injury to the PL.

Defendant’s Argument: Df did not proximately cause the injury to the Pl, nor was the material negligently stored, inventoried, or handled.

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