Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Ultrahazardous Activity Definition:

Activities that can cause injury to others, even when conducted with the greatest prudence and care.

Related Terms: Strict Liability, Rylands v. Fletcher, the Rule in

"(The) law places in the ultrahazardous category activities that can cause injury to others, even when conducted with the greatest prudence and care. The activity, therefore, must present a risk of harm that cannot be eliminated through the exercise of due care. If the activity can be conducted without a high degree of risk of injury by exercising due care, it is not ultrahazardous."

This, from (wait for it....) Justice Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals in the 1985 case Hawkins v Evans Cooperage, who commented on a case emanating from New Orleans

In the 1967 case of Smith v Lockheed Propulsion, Justice Tamura of the Court of Appeals of California adopted these words:

"An activity is ultrahazardous if it (a) necessarily involves a risk of serious harm to the person, land or chattels of others which cannot be eliminated by the exercise of the utmost care, and (b) is not a matter of common usage." 

ultrahazardous activitiesIn Toledo v Van Waters, Rhode Island United States District Court Justice Lagueux reiterated a more complicated approach to ultrahazardous activities; that there were:

"... six factors to be considered in determining whether an activity is ultra-hazardous: (1) existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person, land or chattels of others; (2) likelihood that the harm that results will be great; (3) inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care; (4) extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage; (5) inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and (6) extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes. These factors are not essential elements and are to be viewed as a whole and the weight apportioned to each should be dependent upon the facts in each particular case."

In Pierce v Pacific Gas, Justice Sims of the Court of Appeals of California wrote that the consequence of ultra hazardous activities is the exposure of strict liability:

"The doctrine of ultrahazardous activity provides that one who undertakes an ultrahazardous activity is liable to every person who is injured as a proximate result of that activity, regardless of the amount of care he uses. The doctrine of ultrahazardous activity focuses not on a product and its defects but upon an activity intentionally undertaken by the defendant, which by its nature is very dangerous.... Our Supreme Court has limited the doctrine of ultrahazardous activity to encompass only activities which are neither commonplace nor customary."

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