Foster v. Preston Mill Co. Case Brief

Summary of Foster v. Preston Mill Co. , S. Ct. WA [1954]

Limitations on Strict Liability

Relevant Facts: PL/res Foster owned a mink farm. Df/ant was engaged in a blasting operation 2.25 miles away. Foster provided notice that the blasting operations were causing the mother mink to kill their kittens. The blasting continued unabated.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the risk that any unusual vibration or noise may cause wild animals, raised for commercial purposes, to kill their young, are one of the things which make the activity of blasting ultra hazardous, thereby imposing absolute liability?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Trial ct w/o jury rendered judgment for Pl; Df appealed, reversed.

Law or Rule(s): One who carries on an ultra hazardous activity is liable to another whose person, land or chattels the actor should recognize as likely to be harmed by the unpreventable miscarriage of the activity for harm resulting theretofrom that which makes the activity ultra hazardous, although the utmost care is exercised to prevent the harm.

Court Rationale: The thing which makes blasting ultra hazardous is the risk that property or persons may be damaged or injured by coming into direct contact with flying debris, or by being directly affected by vibrations of the earth or concussions of the air. Moderate vibration and noise 2.25 miles away was no more than a usual incident of the ordinary life of the community. It is the exceedingly nervous disposition of mink, rather than the normal risks inherent in blasting, which must bear the responsibility for the loss here sustained. The policy of law does not impose the rule of strict liability to protect against harms incident to the pl’s extraordinary and unusual use of the land.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The Df’s business is classified as a ultra hazardous activity which caused the injury to the Pl.

Defendant’s Argument: The consequences of mother mink killing their kittens as a result of blasting some distance away do not lie within the extraordinary risk of the activity.

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