Gulf Refining Co. v. Williams
Supreme Court of MS - 1938
- D supplied gas to P. D dropped off a drum of gas that would be used by P in his farm machinery.
- P attempted to remove the cap from the drum and caused a spark which created a fire that severely burned P.
- P claimed that the drum was in a state of disrepair which caused the fire and that D was negligent in not fixing it.
- Trial court found for P.
- MS Supreme Court affirmed, found for P.
- May an individual be liable in negligence even if the conduct only creates a risk of highly improbable and unlikely harm?
- An individual be liable in negligence even if the conduct only creates a risk of highly improbable and unlikely harm.
- The explosion in question is a very unlikely circumstance.
- When dealing with forseeability, the inquiry is not as to the probability of the incident but on whether the incident is likely to occur.
- The test for forseeability then is not the balance of probabilities but the existence of some real likelihood of some damage.
- Here, the likelihood is of such weight as to induce action to avoid the damage on the part of a reasonable person.
- There would have been no liability if the drum was in reasonably good repair. However, this drum was not in good repair. The threads of the cap were broken.
- A reasonable person could have foreseen the fire and should have taken steps to minimize the risk.
- Negligence deals with possibilities, not probabilities.
- The act of the D must be likely to cause injury.
- It is not necessary that the probability of an injury is very likely