The Law School Authority

Golden v. Amory Case Brief

Summary of Golden v. Amory, S. Ct.  Mass.  [1952]

Limitations on Strict Liability

Relevant Facts: Dfs owned a hydroelectric power plant near Ludlow Mass. Df had constructed a dike that primarily served as a highway. As a result of a hurricane the river overflowed and damaged real estate of several pls.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the defendants can be held liable for injury to the plaintiffs real estate caused by the flood waters?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: After jury verdicts for the pl the judge directed verdicts for Dfs on 1st and 2nd Counts. Exceptions overruled and judgment affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): A person who for his own purposes brings on his lands and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril, and, if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.

Court Rationale: The rule does not apply where the injury results from ‘vis major, the act of God, which the owner had no reason to anticipate. In the present case the flood, as disclosed by the evidence, was plainly beyond the capacity of any one to anticipate, and was clearly an act of God.

For this reason the rule under discussion does not apply, and the defendants cannot be held liable for injury caused by the flood waters.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The Dfs constructed a hydroelectric plant and supplemental dike which is likely to cause mischief.  The resulting flood stemmed from the construction of the dike.

Defendant’s Argument: The natural cause of the water’s escape was clearly an act of God, a hurricane, and could not have been anticipated.

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