Law School Case Brief
Fricke v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. - 571 So. 2d 130 (La. 1990)
All intended wrongs have in common the element that they are inflicted without the consent of the victim. Consent ordinarily bars recovery for intentional interferences with person or property. It is a fundamental principle of the common law that "volenti non fit injuria," to one who is willing, no wrong is done.
George Fricke, III, the foreman of a mustard mill, persuaded defendant Roger Baumer, the older superintendent, to let him descend a ladder to rescue Melvin Davillier, Sr., another employee, who was lying unconscious at the bottom of a deep tank. Toxic mustard gases in the tank killed Davillier and caused brain damage to Fricke. Fricke's wife, plaintiff Janet Fricke, together with Fricke's curators and heirs, filed an action in Louisiana state court for damages against defendant Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. ("Owens"), the owners of the plant, and Baumer, alleging that the injuries occurred because Baumer knowingly exposed the employees to the vapors. The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The appellate court reversed. Defendants were granted a writ of certiorari.
Were defendants liable for the personal injuries suffered by Fricke?
The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs' complaint. The court held that there was no genuine dispute of material fact and that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court held that reasonable minds had to conclude that Fricke consented to whatever offensive or harmful contact that Baumer desired or believed to a substantial certainty would befall him when he descended to rescue Davillier. The court found that Fricke and Baumer did not know that the tank contained vapors or what caused Davillier's fall to the bottom of the tank.
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