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Zittrain Torts Playlist Spring 2013

Henry v. Houston Lighting and Power Co.

Headnote

Employees of the defendant accidentally severed an underground gas line while drilling a hole for a utility pole. The plaintiff was one of the repairmen called to repair the gas line. While the plaintiff was working, one of his fellow employees shouted “Fire” because the area was engulfed in smoke. The plaintiff looked up, saw smoke, and ran into a utility pole while trying to escape. In actuality, the smoke was caused by a mosquito fogger that was pumping fog into a nearby manhole. To what extent should the creators of hazards be liable to responders who are injured while trying to eliminate the hazard? Also, should courts automatically treat intervening causes of the plaintiff’s injury as superseding causes that relieve the defendant of liability?