9 J. Envtl. L. & Litig. 551 (1994)
Liability for Induced Earthquakes

handle is hein.journals/jenvll9 and id is 569 raw text is: DARLENE A. CYPSER*
Liability for Induced Earthquakes*
Earthquakes are induced by various human activities, includ-
ing fluid injection for waste disposal and secondary recovery of
oil, geothermal energy production, oil and gas extraction, reser-
voir impoundment, mining and quarrying. Such earthquakes
sometimes cause damage. Because these earthquakes are not
free from human interference, the damage they cause cannot be
excused as an act of God. A direct chain of causation can be
established between the inducing activities, the quakes and the
resulting damage. Strict liability for damage caused by induced
earthquakes can be based on trespass law, the doctrine of Ry-
lands v. Fletcher, or the tests of the First and Second Restate-
ments of Torts. In states where strict liability is not recognized
for concussion damage, negligence may provide a basis for lia-
bility. A swarm of induced earthquakes may also constitute a
private nuisance.
An earthquake has long been considered the epitome of an act
of God:' an occurrence beyond the control, even beyond the in-
fluence, of humans. Thus, no thought was ever given to the pos-
sibility of causation or fault2 attaching to an earthquake.
The court cases involving earthquakes and liability deal almost
* Darlene A. Cypser is an attorney in private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She
received her J.D. from the University of Oklahoma.
* Scott D. Davis is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Center
for Earthquake Research & Information in Memphis, Tennessee. He received his
Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Texas at Austin.
* The authors thank Professor Peter B. Kutner for critiquing an earlier version of
the Article. We also thank William M. Brown III and John R. Jacus for reviewing
the final manuscript, and Barbara A. Christopher and Jim Cypser for proofreading
it. This paper is CERI contribution number 275.
1 Slater v. S.C. Ry. Co., 6 S.E. 936 (S.C. 1888); see also James L. Howe III, Com-
ment, Act of God: A Reconsideration, 18 WASH. & LEE L. REv. 336, 339 n.21
(1961); 1 AM. JUR. 2D Act of God § 6 (1962).
2 This is true in the legal sense of the word fault. For a brief mention that exces-
sive groundwater withdrawal might contribute to geological faulting see Jennele
Morris, Note, Stibsidence: An Emerging Area of the Law, 22 ARIz. L. REv. 891,894
(1980); see also Peter F. Windrem & Gary L. Marr, Environmental Problems and
Geothermal Permitting, 14 NAT. RES. LAW. 675, 683 (1982) (the potential increase


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