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Power Plant Implosion Injures 4 Spectators

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 05, 2013 11:04 AM

A California power plant implosion went horribly wrong when two spectators were seriously hurt by flying debris. One of the victims, a 43-year-old-man, had his leg partially amputated in the blast.

At least two other spectators suffered minor injuries from the demolition of a power plant in Bakersfield on Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Times reports. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

So who could eventually be held liable for these injuries?

The plant, owned by Pacific Gas and Electric, had not been in use since 1986, and so the decision had been made to implode the two remaining steel boiler towers -- each 140 feet tall.

PG&E had hired Cleveland Wrecking Co. to conduct the demolition, and a full investigation is now under way. Victims hurt by the implosion may be able to sue for their injuries, under several possible legal theories. These may include:

Strict Liability

Under the theory of strict liability, a party can be held liable for an injury even if there's no direct proof that he caused the harm.

There are several ways for strict liability to apply with an injury. One is if the harm resulted from an abnormally dangerous condition or activity, such as the use of explosives or toxic fumes. In this case, an implosion of a power plant that caused flying metal debris would likely fall under this category.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Res ipsa loquitur is another legal theory that can help establish liability for an injury. The phrase, in Latin, means "the thing speaks for itself," and involves circumstantial evidence when there are other elements of liability missing.

Res ipsa is often an option in a situation where there is an accident, but it's hard to collect details that pinpoint the blame directly on anyone. It requires:

  • An event that wouldn't normally occur unless someone has acted negligently,
  • A defendant who was in exclusive control of the event that caused the injury, and
  • A type of negligence that falls within the scope of the defendant's duty.

In this case, an experienced personal injury lawyer may try to use res ipsa loquitur to assert that the spectators' injuries wouldn't have occurred unless someone had acted negligently in the power plant's implosion. As either PG&E or the demolition company was in control of the implosion, one of those companies -- or perhaps both -- could potentially be held liable.

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