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Zittrain Torts Playlist Spring 2013

Wagon Mound (No. 1)

Headnote

Should courts hold defendants responsible when their negligence causes both expected and unexpected damage? Defendant discharged oil onto the water near plaintiff's wharf, but did not properly disperse the oil. For a while, the oil did interfere with the condition of the wharf by making its surfaces slippery and congealed. Eventually, the oil did catch on fire and burned the plaintiff's wharf. The trial judge found for the defendant, based on testimony and evidence which tended to show that oil should not burn on water. The lower court found for the plaintiff, however, after applying the "direct cause" rule of Polemis.