Summary of Spano v. Perini Corporation
(Davis v. Perini Corp)
Facts:Ann Spano owned a garage in Brooklyn, N.Y which suffered damage as a result of a blasting operation.
Davis owned a vehicle contained within Spano’s garage, and subsequently suffered damage from the blast.
Perini Corporation, joint defendants, were engaged in building a tunnel under contract with New York City, using blasting operations.
Procedure: Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division reversed trial court (without jury) finding in favor of plaintiffs. Court of Appeals reverse and remanded.
Issue: Whether a person, who has sustained property damage, caused by nearby blasting, can maintain an action for damages without a showing that the blasting company was negligent?
Court’s Rationale: Strict or absolute liability applies, especially when an action involves Ultra Hazardous Activities, with resulting damages from that activity. Plaintiffs are considered 3rd party beneficiaries of the defendant’s contract with the City of New York.
Intentional setting off explosives * * *, blasting, in an area in which it was likely to cause harm to neighboring property similarly results in absolute liability.One who engages in blasting must assume responsibility, and be liable without fault, for any injury caused therein.
Rule: Court rejects Booth and utilized Hays v Cohoes Co., and Heeg v Licht. The rule which exonerates a party engaged in a lawful business, when free from negligence, has no application. The blasting company has the right to blast, and the property owner has the right to undisturbed possession. When in conflict the former must yield to the latter, as the more important of the two. Trespass has been a cause of action, whether an injury occurred or not, for damages. Punitive damages are awarded even in the absence of actual damages.