Torts Keyed to Dobbs
Hughes v. Lord Advocate
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Post Office employees were working on an underground telephone cable in Edinburgh, Scotland. At 5:00 they took a tea break, leaving unguarded an open manhole, covered with a tent and surrounded by kerosene lanterns. Two boys, 8 and 10 years old, found the site, descended in the hole then came back up without mishap. But once back on top, they knocked or dropped a lantern into the hole. The accepted reconstruction of what happened was that the lantern broke and some of the kerosene vaporized. This gaseous form of kerosene came into contact with the lantern’s flame and created a large explosion, causing Hughes, the 8 year old, to fall into the manhole and suffer severe burns. He sued the Lord Advocate of Scotland as the representative of the Post Office. The courts of Scotland held in favor of Lord Advocate on the grounds that though burns were foreseeable, the vaporization of the kerosene and the explosion were not.
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