Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co (Switching Co)
American Cyanamid Co (Shipper)
company noticed that fluid was
gushing from a car.
company had to take decontamination
measures that cost $981,022.75.
One count of
the two-count complaint charges Cyanamid with having maintained
the leased tank car negligently.
count asserts that the transportation of acrylonitrile in bulk
through the Chicago metropolitan area
is an abnormally dangerous
activity, for the consequences of which the shipper
(Cyanamid) is strictly
liable to the switching line, which bore the
financial brunt of those consequences because of the
decontamination measures that it was forced to take.
vs. Strict Liability
common law regime of tort liability is negligence.
When it is a
workable regime, because the hazards of an activity can be
avoided by being careful (which is to say, non-negligent),
there is no need to switch to strict liability.
however, a particular type of accident
cannot be prevented by
taking care but can be avoided, or its consequences minimized,
by shifting the activity in which the accident occurs to another
locale, where the risk or harm of an accident will be less
((e)), or by reducing the scale of the activity in order to
minimize the number of accidents caused by it ((f)).
the actor strictly liable -- by denying him in other words
an excuse based on his inability to avoid accidents by being
more careful -- we give him an incentive, missing in a
negligence regime, to experiment with methods of
preventing accidents that
involve not greater exertions of care, assumed to be futile, but
reducing (perhaps to
the vanishing point) the activity giving rise to the accident.
case for strict liability
the risk of an accident ((a)) and the costs of an accident if
one occurs ((b)), the more we want the actor to consider the
possibility of making accident-reducing activity changes; the
stronger, therefore, is the case for strict liability.
the case for strict liability
activity is extremely common
((d)), like driving an automobile, it is
unlikely either that its
hazards are perceived as great or that
there is no
technology of care available to minimize them; so the
case for strict liability is
The leak was
not caused by the acrylonitrile it was caused by
caused by carelessness -- whether that of the North American Car
Corporation in failing to maintain or inspect the car properly,
or that of Cyanamid in failing to maintain or inspect it, or
that of the Missouri Pacific when it had custody of the car, or
that of the switching line itself in failing to notice the
ruptured lid, or some combination of these possible failures of
emphasis is on picking a liability regime (negligence or strict
liability) that will control the particular class of accidents
in question most effectively.
for the most efficient way to change behavior.
The focus is
on finding the deepest pocket and placing liability there.
i.e., The Df -
is a huge corporation, the railroad it a small company, so the
Df should absorb the loss.
- Case for strict liability has not be made
attorney only thought that it was important Cyanamid introduced
the product into the stream of commerce.
to prove the chemical could be rerouted around all
the metropolitan areas in the country.
Pl made no
effort to track the incident.
thing is law and economics