Crews v. Hollenbach

Crews v. Hollenbach - Andrew Heacock 3/23/06 BLAW 3201 Sec....

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Andrew Heacock 3/23/06 BLAW 3201 Sec. 8 Crews v. Hollenbach Facts: On March 23, 1996, an employee of Honcho & Sons named John Hollenbach was digging a hole at an excavation site when he struck and severed a natural gas line owned by Washington Gas. The police and fire departments were not initially notified, and in fact were not aware of a gas leak until much later when someone a mile and a half away smelled gas and called the authorities. Over two hours after the emergency authorities were notified, Washington Gas was notified of the leak. The natural gas leak had saturated the nearby soil and resulted in the evacuation of the nearby neighborhood. Washington Gas sent out a team to contain the “volatile” leak under the supervision of foreman Lee James Crews, who had been a gas man for over twenty years. While working to repair the ruptured line, an explosion occurred that severely injured Crews. Crews and his wife filed suit against Hollenbach and others in a Maryland Trial Court, claiming negligence. On the grounds that no facts were disputed, the defendants were awarded a summary judgment in their favor on the basis that the nature of Crews’ occupation implied assumption of risk. Crews appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Issue: Did Crews, by virtue of his occupation as a gas man, accept risk the risk of injury due to explosion or other incidences related gas utility line repair? Decision: Yes. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that Crews accepted the risk of injury by being a gas leak repairman. Reasoning: The Special Appeals Court first addressed Crews’ claim that the motion for summary judgment was erroneously issued. Crews’ claim that there was a “genuine dispute of material fact” because the court had not taken into account certain issues such as nature of risk, whether Crews had the choice to respond to the scene and whether he know that the gas had been leaking for more than two hours. The court held that these issues did not preclude the assumption of risk citing that a gas company might not become aware of a leak in a timely manner. The court referred to a colloquy between Crews and a defendants counsel in which Crews’ admits to having accepted the responsibility of cleaning up gas leaks that are potentially hazardous to the population and environment. The court then discussed primary assumption of risk and the fireman’s rule. The Fireman’s rule is a public policy statement barring policemen and firefighters from filing suit for injuries they receive due to the very negligence that they were called to address. The court held that even though Crews was not a public servant, he should have been just as aware of the dangers of explosion when fixing a gas leak as a fireman who falls down an elevator shaft while fighting a fire. Crews admittedly knew of the risks associated with his
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This note was uploaded on 03/21/2012 for the course BLAW 1000 taught by Professor Stuff during the Spring '12 term at LSU.

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Crews v. Hollenbach - Andrew Heacock 3/23/06 BLAW 3201 Sec....

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