The Miyazaki Prefectural Government was the scene of an accident that seems right out of a tort exam. Government officials wanted to show a dead and live blood-sucking tick that is spreading a lethal disease in Japan. The problem is that, after warning about the lethality of tick, the officials put the live tick on a table and it promptly escaped — sending panicked reporters and officials running for the doors. The tick was never found.
Officials proceeded to inundate the room with insecticide and Miyazaki Governor Shunji Kono deeply apologetic. The incident however left many . . . well . . . ticked off.
Just last month, a farmer died after contracting spotted fever after being bitten by a tick. Others have come down with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or SFTS, which the tick carries.
Obviously, this could be an easy case of negligence to hold a press conference to show how lethal these ticks are . . . and then release one in the crowded room. It could also be alleged to be an abnormally dangerous activity but this is something that can be done with due care (which seems clearly missing here). Generally strict liability applies to those activities that remain highly dangerous even with the exercise of due care. 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.”
There is also negligent infliction of emotional distress which would seem compelling after warning the audience about the lethal bug that you then released into the closed room.
You be the judge: