Strict Liability and Natural Gas Transmission

In New Meadows v. Washington Water Power, the Washington Court of Appeals, Division Three, refused to extend strict liability to a gas company for damages arising from the escape of natural gas from one of its underground mains. Applying the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 520, a divided courts held that the underground transmission of natural gas does not constitute an abnormally dangerous activity. As the first American case to apply the Restatement (Second) to the activity of transporting natural gas in underground pipelines and because of the growing number of states adopting the Restatement (Second), New Meadows merits close scrutiny. Natural gas leaking into a basement from an underground gas main two blocks away caused an explosion and fire which destroyed a house owned by New Meadows Holding Company (New Meadows) and seriously burned its tenant, Mark Brown. Mr. Brown inadvertently ignited the gas while trying to light an oil furnace in his basement. The alleged cause of the gas leak occurred
seven years earlier when Cableway, Inc. (Cableway), doing excavation work to install telephone cables for Pacific Northwest Bell (PNB), damaged a two-inch gas transmission line owned by Washington Water Power (WWP).

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Charles Maduell, Strict Liability and Natural Gas Transmission, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 199 (1983).

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