Liability for Induced Earthquakes

Darlene A. Cypser & Scott D. Davis


Earthquakes are induced by various human activities, including fluid injection for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, oil and gas extraction, geothermal energy production, reservoir impoundment, mining and quarrying. Such earthquakes some times 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 establish 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 Rylands v. Fletcher, or the tests of the First and Second Restatements of Torts. In states where strict liability is not recognized for concussion damage, negligence may provide a basis for liability. A swarm of induced earthquakes may also constitute a private nuisance.

Citation: Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation, vol. 9, pp. 551-589, 1994 [9 J. Envtl. L. & Litig. 551 (1994)]