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The right of commercial fishermen to recover for injuries to their businesses caused by pollution of public waters is recognized.
Plaintiffs, commercial fisherman, sought to recover profits lost as a result of the reduction in the commercial fish potential of the Santa Barbara channel which may have been caused by the oil spill from defendants' platform. Defendants moved for partial summary judgment, contending that no cause of action exists against a defendant whose negligence prevented a plaintiff from obtaining a prospective pecuniary advantage. The district court denied defendants’ motion, and the defendants appealed.
Did a cause of action exist against a defendant whose negligence prevented a plaintiff from obtaining a prospective pecuniary advantage?
The court held that negligent interference with economic advantage was actionable. The right of plaintiffs to recover for injuries to their business caused by pollution of public water was recognized, even though they experienced no physical harm. Defendants were under a duty to plaintiffs to conduct their drilling and production in a reasonably prudent manner so as to avoid the negligent diminution of aquatic life. It was foreseeable that negligently conducted drilling operations might diminish aquatic life and thus injure the business of plaintiffs. The judgment was affirmed.