Spano v. Perini Corp.
Court of Appeals of New York, 1969. 25 N.Y.2d 11,
250 N.E.2d 31, 302 N.Y.S.2d 527, on remand,
33 A.D.2d 516, 304 N.Y.S.2d 15 (1969).
- Spano’s (Plaintiff) garage was wrecked by a blast set off by the defendant on a construction site 125 miles away from Spano’s property.
- Spano’s case was tied to Davis, who owned a car that was damaged inside Spano’s garage at the time of the blast.
- Judgment was in favor of the plaintiffs
- Judgments reversed by Appellate Term
- Appellate Term affirmed by Appellate Division, and the plaintiffs are granted leave to appeal
Order reversed and remanded to Appellate Division for further proceedings.
Whether someone who has sustained property damages caused by blasting on a nearby property can maintain an action for damages without proving negligence on the part of the blaster.
Defendant is liable for damages to the plaintiff’s property even though there is no physical trespass and therefore no proof of negligence (not exercising ordinary care).
Absolute liability: a blaster (or someone acting under an “abnormally dangerous activity”) is absolutely liable for any damages he causes, with or without trespass, and with or without negligence. Actions like blasting are inherently dangerous and blasters should be held liable for damages that occur as a result of blasting, even if the blasters cannot be proven negligent.
* Since 1893 Booth v. Rome, W. & O.T.R.R. Co., the law was that proof of negligence was required unless the blast was accompanied by a physical invasion of the damaged property. This case is considered inconsistent with other court decisions. Overturned.
* In Hay v. Cohoes Co., the defendant was held absolutely liable for damages caused to the plaintiff’s property by flying earth and stones from a blast set off by the defendant.
* Even though there was a distinction from Hay because there was physical invasion of the property, this court believes that the focus of the court in the other cases was not concerned with how the damage was caused, but by the fact that explosions in highly populated areas were likely to cause damage. It is not a question of whether blasting is lawful, but rather a question of who should bear the cost for damages caused by the blasting.
* In Heeg v. Licht, it was held that damage caused by the accidental explosion of gunpowder, even without physical trespass, should be absolutely liable. It follows that intentional blasting in populated areas where it is likely to cause damage to nearby property should be absolutely liable.
Order is reversed and remanded to Appellate Division for further proceedings.
Strict liability: as opposed to Brown & Cohen, there is no need to prove direct fault or negligence on the part of the defendant in abnormally dangerous activities.