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Powell v. Fall

    Brief Fact Summary. Powell (Plaintiff) sued Defendant to recover damages for an injury caused by sparks escaping from the fire of a traction engine.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendant is liable to Plaintiff for damages done to Plaintiff’s land caused by Defendant’s dangerous acts, even if Defendant is not negligent.

    Facts. Plaintiff owned a farm with a rick of hay upon it. Injury was done to Plaintiff’s land by the sparks of a traction (locomotive) engine belonging to Defendant. Defendant’s engine was not speeding. Plaintiff brings suit against Defendant. Judgment for Plaintiff, Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Is Defendant responsible for damages to Plaintiff caused by his own dangerous acts, even if he was not negligent?

    Held. Yes. Judgment for Plaintiff.
    * The passing of Defendant’s engine along the road next to Plaintiff’s rick of hay is confessedly dangerous, inasmuch as sparks cannot be prevented from flying from it. If a person uses a dangerous machine, he should pay for the damage, which it causes. The damage done aught not be borne by Plaintiff.

    Discussion. In this case, the court imposed strict liability on Defendant’s dangerous act despite his lack of negligence.


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