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Judson v. Giant Powder Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff’s factory was destroyed by a dynamite explosion at Defendant’s powder factory. At trial, there was no direct testimony as to the cause of the initial explosion. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant’s motion for new trial was denied. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In the absence of evidence to the contrary, an accident is caused by the negligence of a party if the thing that causes an accident is managed by that party and the accident would not have occurred if the party exercised proper care.

    Facts.

    Judson’s (Plaintiff) factory was destroyed by an explosion in the neighboring powder factory owned by Giant Powder Co. (Defendant). All of Defendant’s employees working that day perished in the explosion. Therefore, there was no testimony as to the cause of the initial explosion. However, an expert testified that the explosion would not have happened in the ordinary course of events.

    Issue.

    Whether an accident is caused by the negligence of a party if the thing that causes an accident is managed by that party, and the accident would not have happened if that party utilized proper care.

    Held.

    Yes. The trial court’s decision was affirmed. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, an accident is caused by the negligence of a party if the thing that causes an accident is managed by that party and the accident would not have occurred if the party exercised proper care.

    Discussion.

    Negligence is presumed if it is determined that the accident would not have occurred absent the negligence–direct evidence is not necessary. The factory where the explosion occurred was under the control of Defendant and the explosion would not have occurred on its own. Although there were no employees who worked that day to furnish direct evidence as to the cause of the explosion, the explosion speaks for itself. Because there is no other explanation for the explosion, and the cause of the explosion was under Defendant’s control, Defendant is guilty.


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