Fireworks -> noise -> stampede in dairy barn -> 4 dead cows: Strict liability?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

No strict liability, the Maryland Court of Appeals holds, when the noise from a lawful fireworks display causes cows to stampede in a nearby barn (Toms v. Calvary Assembly of God, decided this week).

Sounds right to me, under modern strict liability law. Strict liability is sometimes allowed for "abnormally dangerous activities," and courts are split on whether fireworks displays are abnormally dangerous. But, even if fireworks displays are abnormally dangerous (under the messy multi-factor balancing test used for such matters), this is because of the risk of fire, not the (more modest) risk of damage through noise, which should keep strict liability from being applied here. The neighbor could still sue under negligence or nuisance, and prevail if the elements of those torts are satisfied; but he can't prevail under an "abnormally dangerous activity" strict liability test.

Thanks to Howard Bashman (How Appealing) for the pointer.