High Standard of Care Is Ordinary Care for Ultrahazardous Activity
Description Appeals court upheld judgment against natural gas company for injuries suffered by housing residents due to a gas explosion. The trial judge did not commit a reversible error for instructing the jury that the standard of ordinary care meant that when an activity is ultrahazardous the defendant must use a high degree of care.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Ordinary Care; Ultrahazardous Activity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Hynes were injured due to a natural gas explosion at their apartment. They sued Energy SW Legal, the gas supplier, for negligence. The jury awarded the couple $5.3 million in damages. Energy SW Legal appealed, contending that the judge improperly instructed the jury on the ordinary care standard, which was stated to be a high degree of care because natural gas is ultrahazardous.
Decision Decision affirmed. The negligence of the company was established. The issue is if the jury was misled. "Under Wyoming law, a defendant engaged in an ultrahazardous activity must exercise a degree of care commensurate with the danger to meet the ordinary care standard." For the judge to tell the jury that a "high degree of care" was required in this case was not a reversible error. The focus of the instruction was on ordinary care under the circumstances, which, given that this is an ultrahazardous activity, would be care proportionate to the danger, which is high.
Citation Hynes v. Energy SW Legal, Inc., 211 F.3d 1193 (10th Cir., 2000)

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