Question: A railroad car leased by American Cyanamid American and containing

A railroad car leased by American Cyanamid (American) and containing 20,000 gallons of acrylonitrile manufactured by American began leaking while the car was sitting just south of Chicago in the Blue Island yard of the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad (Indiana). The car was awaiting switching to Conrail for delivery to its final destination. Indiana's employees stopped the leak but were uncertain about how much of the car's contents had escaped. Because acrylonitrile is flammable, highly toxic, and possibly carcinogenic, Illinois authorities ordered homes near the yard temporarily evacuated. Later, it was discovered that only about a quarter of the car's contents had leaked, but the Illinois Department of Environmental Protection, fearing that the soil and water had been contaminated, ordered Indiana to take decontamination measures costing $981,000. Indiana sued American on negligence and strict liability theories, seeking to recover its expenses. Evidence introduced at the trial included a list of 125 hazardous materials that are shipped in highest volume on the nation's railroads. Acrylonitrile was the 53rd most hazardous on the list.
Was the trial court's entry of summary judgment for Indiana on the strict liability claim proper?

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  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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