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Liability of Refiners, Storers, and Sellers

A refiner storer and seller who negligently handle petroleum products are subjected to strict liability under the federal and state law.  Similarly, strict liability is also imposed for damages arising from storage or transportation of petroleum products.  A refiner storer and seller of petroleum product are strictly liable under following circumstances:

  • when s/he negligently furnishes incorrect petroleum product;
  • when s/he fails to provide an appropriate container to store or distribute petroleum product;
  • when s/he negligently handles oil and gas products and such negligence is a proximate cause for injury;
  • when s/he negligently distributes petroleum products that do not meet the necessary quality standards and licensing requirements;
  • when s/he negligently distributes petroleum products without a valid license;
  • when s/he negligently fails to label or mislabels petroleum products where such  labeling is required by law.

In some jurisdictions, while imposing liability for injuries caused by negligent handling of petroleum products doctrine of attractive nuisance is applied.  Here an owner will be made liable for injuries suffered by a child who was playing around an abandoned gas pump.  But a landowner will not be held liable for injuries suffered by trespassing children whose presence is neither known nor anticipated by an owner of a property in which gas chamber is located or petroleum products are stored.

However a property owner will be held liable for injuries caused by unsafe conditions of storage facilities when such owner had reasonable opportunity to believe that children are playing in the vicinity of a facility[i].

Doctrine of attractive nuisance is not applied in cases where petroleum products are stored in a proper place with sufficient safeguards in appropriate receptacles.

Generally, a manufacturer is answerable and liable to a customer who bought a product from a retailer to whom a product was supplied by a manufacturer.  In some cases, a retailer who is sued for injuries suffered by a customer can recover damages from a wholesaler who had delivered the product to such retailer.

A person who violates statute regarding gasoline or other petroleum products cannot be held liable, unless the statute expressly provides the terms of liability for negligence and nuisance in handling petroleum products.

However, a defendant who violates the industry standards will be held liable, if such a defendant was aware of a danger that was present by keeping equipment that did not conform to industry standards.

In some jurisdictions, to protect others from injury, liabilities are imposed upon manufacturers who distribute and sell gasoline without care.  While in some other jurisdictions storage of gasoline requires only a lesser standard of care since gasoline in such jurisdictions are recognized as a substance in common use[ii].

[i] Miranti v. Brookside Shopping Center, Inc., 159 Conn. 24 (Conn. 1969).

[ii] Frazier v. Continental Oil Co., 568 F.2d 378 (5th Cir. Miss. 1978).

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