Lawrence v. O&G Industries Inc.; Beamer v. O&G Industries Inc.
To prevail on a cause of action in negligence, a plaintiff may be required to prove that a defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. On Feb. 7, 2010, an explosion took place at a power plant in Middletown, and the plaintiff employees, who were not physically injured, allegedly lost their employment and income. The plaintiffs sued Kleen Energy Systems and other defendants, alleging the defendants were negligent and should be held strictly liable, because they were engaged in an ultrahazardous activity. Allegedly, the defendants were involved in the development, building, construction, start-up, completion, operation or supervision of activities at the power plant. The defendants moved to strike. The court found that the plaintiffs' complaint failed to adequately allege that the defendants owed them a duty of care. Recognizing a duty to plaintiffs who were not physically injured by the explosion, wrote the court, would create a new class of plaintiffs. "For more than 150 years," added the court, "the law in Connecticut, and elsewhere, has limited tort liability to cases involving physical harm to person or property." The court granted the defendants' motion to strike the negligence count. An individual or entity that carries on an abnormally dangerous activity can be subject to liability for harm to the individual, land or chattels of another that results from that activity, even if the individual or entity used utmost care to prevent harm, pursuant to Green v. Ensign-Bickford Co., a 1991 decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. Courts may conduct public policy analyses, when ruling whether a defendant is strictly liable for an ultrahazardous activity. Courts have held that the so-called ultrahazardous activity must necessarily or obviously expose the person or property of another to the danger of probable injury. Here, the court found that the plaintiff employees failed to adequately allege facts that created a duty to the plaintiffs. "To find the defendants strictly liable to the plaintiffs under the facts as alleged here," wrote the court, "would greatly increase potential future litigation of similar claims." The court granted the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiffs' strict liability claims.