The “Exploding Dog” Case

“Court Case Friday”

My favorite law school civil torts case was: the case of the “Exploding Dog.” Here are the facts:

A landowner had a vacant lot downtown between high-rise buildings.  He wanted to improve the property, and so he hired a land developer.

However, there was a giant tree stump with deep roots in the middle of the lot.

The developer hired a tree removal expert. The expert concluded that the most effective and economical way to remove the root was with dynamite.

Thus, the developer hired a demolition expert. The explosive expert wrote a report and applied for city permits, which were granted.

The developer and demolition expert hired a crew to carry out the project. The crew cleared the area. They put up barricades and signs. They placed “shaped” charges so as not to damage the adjacent buildings

When the area was secure, the demolition expert lit the long fuse.

At the same time, a man was walking his dog downtown. The dog owner let his dog off the leash, so it could roam and sniff. This was against the local leash laws. The dog heard the hissing of the lighted dynamite and ran to investigate.

The dog grabbed the bundle of dynamite. One of the workers screamed and waived his arms to scare the dog away. 

The dog ran away, but it didn’t drop the dynamite, and it ran into a nearby store to hide.  

The dynamite exploded, the dog was vaporized, and the store was destroyed.

Who is liable?

  • The landowner for hiring the developer and agreeing to the hazardous removal of the stump?
  • The developer for hiring the demolition expert and agreeing to use dynamite?
  • The tree removal expert for recommending the use of explosives?
  • The demolition expert for setting up the hazardous demolition?
  • The city for approving the project and granting permits?
  • The demolition crew for not securing the area well enough?
  • The worker for scaring the dog into running away with the dynamite?
  • The dog owner for letting his dog off the leash contrary to the law?

As typical of law school discussions, we never reached a conclusion and the professor never shared how the court case turned out. Typically, the richest defendant (“deep pocket”) loses the most. (I searched for the case, but couldn’t find it. Maybe the professor made the whole thing up for “educational purposes.” )


2 thoughts on “The “Exploding Dog” Case

  1. I would consider the dog owner, either the dog off leash to be at most at fault 51%.
    Then the demo guys for not securing the explosives correctly. Unless the dog owner was rich, I would consider the deep pockets of the demo company. Either way it will come down to insurance coverage and limits.


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