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The extent to which one man in the lawful conduct of his business is liable for injuries to another involves an adjustment of conflicting interests. When the defendant, though without fault, has engaged in the perilous activity of storing large quantities of a dangerous explosive for use in his business, there is no justification for relieving it of liability, and that the owner of the business, rather than a third party who has no relation to the explosion, other than that of injury, should bear the loss.
Plaintiffs brought an action to recover for damage done to their property after criminals ignited explosives stored at defendant's warehouse. Partial summary judgment was awarded in favor of plaintiffs, and defendant appealed, arguing that none of the theories may be utilized to fix liability on them by summary judgment. Moreover, the defendants argued that the intentional detonation of the magazine was a superseding cause relieving them of liability under any theory.
Should the defendants be held liable for the damage done to plaintiffs’ property, notwithstanding the fact that the explosion was caused by third party criminals?
The court affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, on the grounds that a rule of absolute liability was imposed upon those storing and using explosives. The fact that criminals caused the explosion did not relieve defendant of liability, because their action was foreseeable.