Monday, March 25, 2013

Klein v. Pyrodyne Corp. case brief

Klein v. Pyrodyne Corp. case brief
117 Wash. 2d 1, 810 P.2d 917 (1991)

Defendant pyrotechnics company appealed the order of partial summary judgment granted in the Superior Court for Pierce County (Washington), which held that strict liability was the appropriate standard of liability for pyrotechnicians. The case was certified to the court by the appeals court.

OVERVIEW: Fireworks discharged by defendant pyrotechnic company exploded near a crowd and injured plaintiff onlookers. The discharge of fireworks was an abnormally dangerous activity justifying imposition of strict liability: that is, it was an activity that is not of common usage and that presents an ineliminably high risk of serious bodily injury or property damage. Fairness weighed in favor of requiring the pyrotechnicians who present the displays to bear the loss, rather than the unfortunate spectators who suffer the injuries. The problem of proof the case presented for the plaintiffs also supported imposing strict liability on defendant.

The court found that the licensing and bonding requirements of Wash. Rev. Code § 70.77.285 imposed statutory strict liability, as it was necessary to interpret the statute as mandating coverage of all damages caused by fireworks displays, regardless of whether those damages were caused by negligence of the pyrotechnicians.

Intervening acts of third persons could only relieve the defendant from strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities if their acts were unforeseeable in relation to the extraordinary risk created by the activity.

Six factors that are to be considered in determining whether an activity is abnormally dangerous. The factors are as follows: (a) existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person, land or chattels of others; (b) likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great; (c) inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care; (d) extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage; (e) inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and (f) extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the decision of the trial court.

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