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Andrew David Toms v. Calvary Assembly of God

August 5, 2020

Toms owned a dairy farm on the adjacent property to the church run by Calvary Assembly of God, Inc.  The church had gotten a proper permit, with supervision by a deputy fire marshal, for a fireworks display.  The display occurred with no malfunctions or misfires.  However, several of the dairy cows stampeded due to the fireworks and resulted in the death of multiple cows, as well as property damage.

The Court of Appeals had to consider whether fireworks are an inherently dangerous activity that require the imposition of strict liability.  The court stated: “… it is not possible to reduce abnormally dangerous activities to any definition. The essential question is whether the risk created is so unusual, either because of its magnitude or because of the circumstances surrounding it, as to justify the imposition of strict liability for the harm that results from it, even though it is carried on with all reasonable care.” The fireworks display in this matter was implemented pursuant to the requirements of the Public Safety Article. Sufficient evidence was not presented to the trier of fact that a lawful fireworks display was abnormally dangerous to livestock due to the noise of fireworks. Thus, the court did not extend the doctrine of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities in this case.