The Discovery Channel’s popular show “Mythbusters” has educated many on the realities and science of common myths. I personally enjoy watching the show with my kids. Now, however, I can show it as part of my torts class. This week, the show was doing an episode and sent a wayward cannonball through a house in Dublin, California (near Oakland) and into the window of a van parked outside.
According to police, “the cannonball took a few unfortunate bounces” and “careened off the hill at a very bad trajectory and carried into this neighborhood.”
The property damage is an obvious liability, but they are fortunate no one was hurt. We discuss the range of activities considered to be ultrahazardous or abnormally dangerous in common law. While our system placed an emphasis on negligence as the primary system of liability, we have always recognized the use of strict liability in some areas like animal liability and ultrahazardous activities — and later product liability. The Second Restatement describes the factors for ultrahazardous or abnormally dangerous activities:
the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 520:
“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 others; (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.”
By any definition, launching cannonballs is an ultrahazardous or abnormally dangerous activity. A video shows the cannonball hole in the house – confirming that the wisdom of ultrahazardous liability is no myth.
Source: Washington Post
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