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Foster v. Preston Mill Co

    Brief Fact Summary. Vibrations from the Defendant, Preston Mill Co’s (Defendant), blasting operations caused the Plaintiff, B.W. Foster’s (Plaintiff) mother mink to kill her kittens. Plaintiff brought an action against Defendant claiming absolute liability.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When strict liability is applicable, it will be confined to the consequences, which lie within the extraordinary risk created by the abnormally dangerous activity.

    Facts. The Defendant conducted blasting operations that frightened a mother mink owned by the Plaintiff and caused the mink to kill her kittens. Plaintiff brought an action against Defendant claiming that Defendant was absolutely liable. The trial court found for Plaintiff on the theory that once Defendant received notice of the effect its blasting operations were having on the mink, it was absolutely liable for all damages thereafter sustained.

    Issue. Is Defendant liable for the death of the kittens under a theory of absolute liability?

    Held. No. Judgment reversed.
    * Strict liability is often imposed in blasting cases. However, the strict liability should be confined to consequences lying within the extraordinary risk of the abnormally dangerous activity. The extraordinary risk in this case is not a risk that vibrations from the blast will cause wild animals to kill their young. In fact, it was found by the trial court that Defendant’s blasting was not a nuisance to anyone except for Plaintiff’s mink ranch. Therefore, the exceedingly nervous disposition of the mink must be the responsibility of the loss sustained.

    Discussion. Although blasting is generally considered an abnormally dangerous activity, courts generally will not apply strict liability to hypersensitive reactions to these activities.


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