Brief Fact Summary.
Giant Powder Co.’s (Defendant) factory exploded, killing all employees who might have provided evidence of what happened. Judson’s (Plaintiff) factory next door was destroyed in the explosion.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Where accidents do not occur when the proper level of care is taken, the occurrence of an accident is evidence of negligence.
Undoubtedly the presumption has been more frequently applied in cases against carriers of passengers than in any other class, but there is no foundation in authority or in reason for any such limitation of the rule of evidence.View Full Point of Law
Judson (Plaintiff) owned a factory on a hill. Plaintiff sold the land next to its factory to Giant Powder Co. (Defendant), who built a series of factory buildings. Defendant’s building closest to Plaintiff’s factory housed nitroglycerine. An explosion started in the nitroglycerine building and spread to each of the other buildings, finishing with a building storing dynamite. The series of explosions destroyed Plaintiff’s factory. All of Defendant’s employees died in the explosion, so there is no evidence of how exactly it happened.
Can negligence be presumed just from the fact that an explosion occurred?
Yes, the Court held that the fact the explosion occurred is prima facie evidence of negligence, or res ipsa loquitur. The Court affirmed the trial court’s decision and award to the Plaintiff.
The Court reasoned that in the normal course of business in powder factories, things do not explode when proper care is taken. The occurrence of an explosion, therefore, is evidence that proper care was not taken. The Plaintiff does not need to present specific evidence of the negligence when they have shown that typically factories do not explode.