In torts exams, professors will often string a series of unexpected events together in a proximate cause scenario. A case out of Oregon seems right out of such an exam narrative. Thomas Hannah, 28, is accused of getting into an argument with a female friend in the parking lot of a U-Haul center in Eugene. He proceeded to light and throw a firework at her, which promptly caused four trucks (and a gas thief) to catch fire.
Police say that the woman ran for cover, but the sparks hit residual gas near the thief who then caught fire.
Clearly Hannah did not know about the thief or seek to do him harm. Yet he fled the scene (as did the thief). Despite the lack of knowledge, Hannah is still charged appropriately with second-degree criminal mischief, reckless burning and reckless endangerment.
The gas thief remains at large but was seen fleeing while on fire.
An interesting case would arise if the thief sued Hannah for negligence per se. Hannah violated state law in his use of the firework. The question would be the comparative negligence of the thief, however, while engaged in criminal conduct. Moreover, there is a clear risk of fire in his crime. The question is whether such comparative negligence or assumption of risk could trump liability.
17 thoughts on “Oregon Man Throws Firework At Female Friend . . . Causing Four Trucks and A Gas Thief To Catch Fire”
Every time JT posts up about these Torts or Crimes or Both, I always see the same thing, over and over. Cluster Bs – Wilds
Cluster A – Weird
Cluster B – Wild
Cluster C – Wimpy
Guaranteed, it’s always a wild. And they do the most bizarre things to other ppl, including their own family. Seen this behavior in 2 different families, as well as my own family. That makes 3, anecdotally speaking…
Yep. Spraying ppl with Lysol, or throwing firecrackers at others, or stealing gas, for that matter.
In Denmark there was a funny case that legally is similar to this.
The surgeons were to remove an odd growth at the top of the man’s thigh and, to be safe against infection, saturated his entire groin with antiseptic.
They used a hot scalpel reaching to the top of the thigh to do the cut.
The patient farted.
The scalpel set the fart on fire.
The flaming fart set the antiseptic on his genitals on fire.
Next thing they knew the had a bonfire on his genitals.
The patient said it hurt.
Was the disaster an Act of God [almost sacrilegious to ask] or were the doctors liable?
I think liable.
A patient farting during surgery is not unusual and the Family Practice News hard an article about two incidents [one in Australia and the other New Zealand] that resulted in brief fires. A flaming fart isn’t very damaging. There are videos of teenage boys lighting them. It is a boy thing, isn’t it? Imagine a group of girls doing it.
The risk of fire, particularly in an oxygen rich environment, was foreseeable, and not particularly dangerous. The negligence was to drench the patient’s genitals with a flammable liquid. If you spilled gasoline on your lap would you want someone to bring a hot scalpel near? I think not.
So, liability because of a duty not to use a flammable antiseptic for that procedure, dereliction in that duty, and dereliction directly causing those damages. Liability.
God had nothing to do with it.
And he wouldn’t pay the bill in any event.
What an idiot. If he threw a firework at her he intended to harm her. And she’s an idiot if she ever speaks to him again. Good guys don’t throw fireworks at women when they are irritated. There must have been warning signs before now. I’d say now the warning is in a billboard with a spotlight.
It seems like a heck of a coincidence that this trashy behavior occurred next to a gasoline thief. Was the thief part of their group? Were they hanging out as lookouts? Or was this just a random meeting? I am reminded of that scene in Jackie Brown when Louis got so sick of the surfer girl mocking him that he shot her.
Today’s logic. Don’t be responsible for your own actions. Please let me sue someone who caught me on fire while I was stealing gas. I heard some moron say that was too much punishment. If I wasn’t there stealing gas I wouldn’t have caught on fire. Had I been there on legitimate business and I caught on fire new story. I’d eat kitty litter before I’d pay someone who was burned while on my property being a thief. On the other hand it still doesn’t excuse the moron from throwing fireworks. (I kinda thought they were illegal too.) I say let the two crackhead morons sue each other, then call it a draw and they both pay the U-HAUL guy for his damages. I would venture to guess that the U-HAUL guy who is trying to run a legitimate business ends up paying for the damage. The morons don’t have insurance or the means to pay for the damage. That’ll be all. Everyone go about your lives now.
China and Proximate Cause
Professor Turley just described the path for international litigation against China which is irrefutably guilty of “proximate cause” in the monumental and historic “Wuhan Flu” virus outbreak. China is guilty of gross dereliction and negligence or crimes against humanity related to its inadvertent or deliberate release of COVID-19.
Additionally, China is allegedly guilty of generating not one but two or more viral “outbreaks.” National Geographic has reported that the origin of the 1918 “Spanish Flu” was China. NG proposed that government sanctioned Chinese laborers were transported in sealed-door railroad cars across Canada toward their final destination of the European front in World War I spreading the virus across three continents.
Pacific Gas & Electric was found to be responsible for field equipment which inadvertently caused the recent wildfires. PG&E’s liability is $30+ billion. China’s liability starts at $5 trillion. China is the responsible party and countries must be made whole by recompense from China. If the world is a society of laws, China must pay and China must pay dearly.
Three spots on the wall by Who Flung Foo.
Great legal setup. A quick guess off the top of my head would be that using fireworks anywhere around gasoline is so inherently dangerous that strict liability would attach without needing to trace causality or predictability all the way.
There was a case many years ago in which a barge used for gasoline had been emptied but the fumes not cleared. It was hit by lightning and blew. The owners tried to disavow liability by claiming it was an act of God. The defense was not allowed. Any reasonable person could see, and avoid, the risk by recognizing that somehow there was a good chance that an ignition could occur even if the exact mode of ignition could not be predicted.
Just my quick guess.
It’s Palsgraf all over again. Cardozo: “if a railway guard stumbles over a bundle of newspapers, and there are explosives within, will there be liability to an injured passenger at the other end of the platform? Will the result be different if the object containing the explosives is a valise instead?”
The thief doesn’t want this judge!
Sounds like a scene in a Three Stooges short.
The thief suing him is like the shotgun case. I have never liked that decision. I do not think the man was “rightly charged” with anything.
This is the content I’m here for.
I think Mr. Hannah loses since there are some possible reasons for stealing gas that are legit (and punishment for stealing an gasoline should probably never involve full on ignition by the substance).
Throwing a firework at a gas station takes it a little extreme,and while that probably doesn’t call for full on ignition, Hannah does test the last nerve of accepted reason.
If he lived in Arizona, the fireworks would be legal. 😉
Not around gasoline.
Young – we are not particular. 😉
Guess there isn’t much to burn in the desert.
Young – there is if we have heavy winter rains and lots of wildflowers in the spring.
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