Gulf Refining Co. v. Williams Case Brief

Summary of Gulf Refining Co. v. Williams, Ct. of App Louisiana

Facts: Appellants are the distributors of petroleum products, including gasoline. Appellants, sold and delivered to a planter in that vicinity a drum of gasoline for use in farm tractors. Appellee was the planter’s employee and was engaged in operating a tractor. Appellee undertook to remove the bung-hole cap from the drum in order to replenish the fuel in the tractor, whereupon there was a sudden outburst of fire, caused, by a spark which was produced by the condition of disrepair in the threads of the bung cap

Issue: Whether the vendor of an inherently dangerous product, must exercise a degree of care equal to the danger, extended to the Pl?

Holding: Yes

Procedure: Appeal from C Court, from a Jury judgment for plaintiff, defendants appeal.


Rule: An actor will be liable for all such harm as a reasonably prudent person would or should have anticipated as the natural and probable consequences of his act; and the act must be of such character and done in such a situation that the actor should reasonably have anticipated that some injury to another would probably result.

Ct. Rationale: But the proof is that the drum had been in use nine years; that the threads in the bung plug or bung cap were broken, bent and jagged; that this condition had been brought about by repeated hammering on the bung cap during the course of its use,–a condition which had attracted the attention of one of appellants’ employees before the container was sent out on this occasion. A person of ordinary prudence, and mindful of the duty of cautious care with which appellants were charged, should have known of the condition and should reasonably have anticipated, that a sudden fire or explosion would be caused by the stated condition of disrepair; and hence appellants are liable for the injury to appellee which resulted.

PL A: The vendor of an inherently dangerous commodity, such as gasoline, is under duty to use cautious care to distribute the same in reasonably safe containers, the degree of care to be commensurate with the danger, and the obligation of this duty extends to all who may lawfully use, or be in the vicinity of, the container.

Def A: The proof shows that an explosion or fire in drawing gasoline from a drum when, or on account of, taking off the bung cap is an unusual, extraordinary, and improbable occurrence.

Probability” in the law of negligence, as respects actor’s liability for foreseeable results of his act, arises when viewed from the standpoint of the judgment of a reasonably prudent man, as a reasonable thing to be expected, while probability exists in the procedural law only when the proof is such that the alleged fact probably happened or existed in the past, in the sense of “probability” as commonly understood.

The test as respects foreseeability is not the balance of probabilities, but the existence, in the situation in hand, of some real likelihood of some damage and the likelihood is of such appreciable weight and moment as to induce, or which reasonably should induce, action to avoid it on the part of a person of a reasonably prudent mind.

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