LAW 512-001 – Torts II

Abnormally Dangerous Activity


The majority of jurisdictions follow the rule from Rylands, which provides that those who use, or permit others to use, land for the conduct of abnormally dangerous activities are strictly liable for resultant damages.

To determine if an activity is abnormally dangerous, courts generally impose two requirements:

  1. The activity must create a foreseeable risk of serious harm even when reasonable care is exercised by all actors.
  2. The activity is not a matter of common usage in the community.
Restatement Second of Torts § 520

Abnormally Dangerous Activities

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In determining whether an activity is abnormally dangerous, the following factors are to be considered:

  1. existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person, land or chattels of others;
  2. likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great;
  3. inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care;
  4. extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage;
  5. inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and
  6. extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.

The majority of states have strict liability for blasting.

Less Important Examples

These activities are sometimes found to be abnormally dangerous, but some are sometimes not:

  • Transportation and storage of toxic chemicals and flammable liquids
  • Pile driving
  • Crop dusting
  • Fumigation
  • Rocket testing
  • Fireworks displays
  • Plutonium production
  • Hazardous waste disposal
  • Oil well operation
  • Storage of large quantities of liquids

An overwhelming majority is against strict liability for the sale of firearms.

A majority uses negligence instead of strict liability for ground damage resulting from airplane crashes.

There is no strict liability for the acts of a third party over whom the defendant has no control even if the defendant's activity is subject to strict liability.

Public Duty Exception

The rules as to strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities do not apply if the activity is carried on in pursuance of a public duty imposed upon the actor as a public officer or employee or as a a common carrier