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Watson v. Kentucky & Indiana Bridge & R.R. Co

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Torts Keyed to Prosser

Citation. Watson v. Kentucky, 1998 U.S. LEXIS 561, 522 U.S. 1081, 118 S. Ct. 864, 139 L. Ed. 2d 762, 66 U.S.L.W. 3473 (U.S. Jan. 20, 1998)

Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Watson (Plaintiff), was injured when a third party lit a match and ignited gasoline vapor causing an explosion. The gasoline vapor was the result of the derailing of a rail car owned by the Defendant, Kentucky & Indiana Bridge & R.R. Co. (Defendant).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. If an intervening act is merely unforeseeable it does not sever the liability of the primary negligent party. However, if the intervening act is so unexpected or extraordinary that the primary tortfeasor could not and ought not to have anticipated it, then liability is severed.

Facts. The Defendant railroad’s tank car filled with gasoline derailed and spilled its contents into the street where the Plaintiff was a bystander. A third party struck a match igniting the gasoline vapor and causing the explosion, which injured the Plaintiff. There was conflicting testimony at trial over whether the third party started the fire while lighting a cigar, or whether he dropped the match with the intention of igniting the gas.

Issue. Whether the intervening act of the third party was a contributing cause, or the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s injury.

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