Torts I, Pages 350–351

Watson v. Kentucky & Indiana Bridge & R.R. Co.

Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 1910

Facts:

Through defendant's negligence, a tack car of gasoline was derailed and its valve broken, so that the gasoline ran into the street. Duerr struck a match, igniting the gasoline, and causing an explosion that injured plaintiff. Duerr claims that he was attempting to light his cigar, but dropped the match accidentally. Eyewitnesses claim he caused the explosion deliberately.

Procedural History:

Trail court directed a verdict for the defendant.

Issue:

Did Duerr's intervention negate defendant's liability?

Rules:

  • Page 351, Paragraph 2

    [I]f the intervening agency is something so unexpected or extraordinary as that he could not or ought not to have anticipated it, he will not be liable

  • Bell: If defendant's negligence created a foreseeable risk that a third person would commit a crime or intentional tort, defendant's liability will not be cut off by that crime or intentional tort.

Reasoning:

If lighting the gas was an accident, it was a foreseeable and probable consequence of spilling the gas, as it was likely someone would have struck a match. If it was intentional, defendant would not be required to anticipate criminal acts however, and it would not be a foreseeable consequence.

Holding:

If Duerr lighting the gas was an accident, defendant is liable. If it was intentional, defendant would not be liable. Reversed and remanded for a new trial.

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