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Bridges v. The Kentucky Stone Co., Inc

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Brief Fact Summary. Injuries occurred from an intentional dynamite blast at the Plaintiff, Bridges’ (Plaintiff) home. Plaintiff sued the Defendants, the Kentucky Stone Co. and William Webb (Webb)(Defendants), claiming that they negligently stored dynamite and other ultra- hazardous explosives at its plant.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. This Court holds that the determination of whether the storage of dynamite is an ultra-hazardous activity must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Section 520 of the Second Restatement provides as follows: in determining whether an activity is abnormally dangerous, the following factors are to be considered: (a) Existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person, land or chattels of another; (b) Likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great; (c) Inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care; (d) Extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage; (e) Inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and (f) Extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.

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Facts. The Plaintiff, filed suit against the Defendants for an allegedly intentional and malicious explosion of dynamite at his home. Plaintiff’s twelve year old son was killed in the blast and another son and the Plaintiff were injured. The claim against Defendants rested on the allegation that it negligently kept and stored dynamite and other ultra-hazardous explosives at its Tyrone plant. The trial court held as a matter of law that the storage of dynamite by the Defendants, which was assumed to be negligent, was not the proximate cause of the injuries. On this basis, Defendants were granted summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment.

Issue. Is the storage of dynamite per se an ultra-hazardous activity?

Held. No. The opinion of the Court of Appeals is vacated and judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
* This Court believes that whether the storage of dynamite is an ultra-hazardous activity must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The blast that happened at Plaintiff’s house occurred nearly three weeks after the theft of the dynamite, and over one hundred miles away. The disappearance of the dynamite was reported to federal authorities within twenty-four hours of its discovery, as required by federal law. Based on these facts, the court held that the theft of the explosive materials was a superseding cause of the blast, precluding liability for any supposed negligence of defendant.

Dissent. Justice DeBruler’s dissent omitted.

Discussion. While the Court in this case uses the term ultra-hazardous, today most courts apply an abnormally dangerous standard, which depends on the nature of the location where the activity takes place.

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