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Tort Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

by Agati, Taryn


SC20422 - Gonzalez v. O & G Industries, Inc. ("Almost twelve years ago, an explosion occurred at a natural gas fueled, power generating facility under construction in Middletown. The devastating blast and ensuing fire took the lives of six construction employees and injured nearly thirty more. Several of the victims and their families brought this tort action against the owner of the power plant, the owner’s administrative agent, the general contractor, and others. The plaintiffs claimed that the general contractor’s oversight during construction caused the tragedy, and that the owner and administrative agent were liable for that oversight under theories of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities and negligence. After their claims against the general contractor were resolved in the contractor’s favor, the plaintiffs sought relief from the defendant owner and administrative agent. The plaintiffs’ two theories of tort liability were bifurcated. With respect to the plaintiffs’ strict liability claims, the defendants asserted that they were not strictly liable because the procedure that caused the explosion was not abnormally dangerous. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court agreed and rendered judgment for the defendants with respect to the strict liability claims. Then, the defendants sought summary judgment with respect to the plaintiffs’ negligence claims, asserting that they were not liable in negligence because it was the general contractor, not the owner or administrative agent, which exercised control over the procedure that caused the explosion. The court agreed, granting the defendants’ motions for summary judgment with respect to the negligence claims. The plaintiffs appealed, and we must decide whether tort remedies are available to the plaintiffs following this tragic event.


We agree with the defendants with respect to the first issue and conclude that the gas blow procedure is not an abnormally dangerous activity and that the plaintiffs cannot maintain a strict liability claim. We also agree with the defendants with respect to the second issue and conclude that no reasonable jury could find that the defendants exercised control over the gas blow procedure. Finally, we decline to review the plaintiffs’ two additional negligence arguments because we conclude that those arguments are inadequately briefed."