Citation. Golden v. Amory, 329 Mass. 484, 109 N.E.2d 131.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Plaintiffs, Golden and others (Plaintiffs), claim that Defendant, Amory’s (Defendants), negligence in maintaining a dike caused them real estate damage after a hurricane resulted in a flood.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Plaintiffs are not responsible under strict liability theories when the damage caused was an unanticipated act of God.
The Defendants owned a hydroelectric plant. A hurricane caused the river on which the plant was located to overflow and damage the real estate of the several Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs brought suit claiming that negligence in the maintenance of the Alden Street dike on the part of Defendants resulted in the damage to plaintiff’s real estate.
Are Defendants liable for maintaining a non-natural land use and the resulting damage that occurred from this use?
No. Exceptions overruled.
* Plaintiffs rely on the rule stated in Rylands v. Fletcher, In the Exchequer Chamber, L.R. 1 Ex. 265, (1886), stating that a person is prima facie liable for the escape of things that he collects on his lands. However, Rylands clearly states that the rule does not apply to injury resulting from the act of God. The hurricane and resulting flood in this case was clearly an act of God.
Because Plaintiffs were unable to anticipate the damages, it would be against policy to hold them liable even under strict liability because nothing could have further prevented the damages.