Foster v. Preston Mill Co.

44 Wash. 2d 440, 268 P.2d 645 (1954)



The doctrine of absolute liability applies where the damage from blasting is caused, not by the casting of rocks and debris, but by concussion, vibration, or jarring.


Blasting operations conducted by Preston Mill Company frightened mother mink owned by B. W. Foster, and caused the mink to kill their kittens. Foster brought this action against the company to recover damages. His second amended complaint, upon which the case was tried, sets forth a cause of action on the theory of absolute liability, and, in the alternative, a cause of action on the theory of nuisance. After a trial to the court without a jury, judgment was rendered for plaintiff in the sum of $ 1,953.68. The theory adopted by the court was that, after defendant received notice of the effect which its blasting operations were having upon the mink, it was absolutely liable for all damages of that nature thereafter sustained. The trial court, however, concluded that defendant's blasting did not constitute a public nuisance.


Can a blasting company be strictly liable for farmed animals killing their young as a result of its blasting operations?




The supreme court reversed, holding it was the exceedingly nervous disposition of mink, rather than the normal risks inherent in blasting operations, which was required, as a matter of sound policy, to bear the responsibility for the loss suffered by plaintiff. It held that the trial court erred in entering judgment for plaintiff because plaintiff's damage was not the type of consequences that fell within the extraordinary risk of defendant's blasting and thus was not a risk that made blasting ultra-hazardous.


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