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Grace & Co. v. Los Angeles - 278 F.2d 771 (9th Cir. 1960)


Observance of a custom or practice is evidence of due care, although of course it does not conclusively establish the legal standard.


Plaintiff Grace & Co.’s bags of coffee had been unloaded from a ship and were stored in a shed near the harbor of defendant City of Los Angeles. A water pipe burst and water flooded the shed, damaging plaintiff's coffee. Plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendant in federal district court. The district court held that defendant had not been negligent in maintaining its pipe lines, and thus entered judgment against plaintiff.


Taking into consideration the circumstances of the case at hand, was the City of Los Angeles negligent in maintaining its pipe lines?




The appellate court rejected plaintiff's argument that defendant was negligent in maintaining its pipe lines without determining whether the pipe was of sufficient strength to withstand applied pressure. According to the court, in order to determine whether there was corrosion in the pipe lines, every inch of the ten miles of water lines would have had to be examined on the top, bottom, and the sides. The court noted that it was generally not the practice of municipalities to dig up underground pipe to ascertain its condition until there were sufficient breaks to indicate that the pipe was corrosive or undependable. Prior to the break in question, there had been only one corrosion failure of a pipe in the area, which occurred almost 35 years prior.

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