Dalehite v. United States

346 U.S. 15 (1953)

From our private database of 45,900+ case briefs, written and edited by humans—never with AI.

Dalehite v. United States

United States Supreme Court
346 U.S. 15 (1953)


The United States government (defendant) manufactured and produced fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) under general supervision of the U.S. Army’s chief of ordnance and under the local direction of the army’s field director of ammunition plants. The government sought advice on its detailed FGAN manufacturing plan from experienced commercial producers of explosives. In Texas City, Henry Dalehite was killed when bags of FGAN on the ship Grandcamp caught fire and exploded, spreading fire to another ship carrying fertilizer, which also exploded. Dalehite’s estate (plaintiff) sued the government for Dalehite’s death. The FGAN was manufactured in government-owned plants at the government’s order to its specifications and shipped at its direction as foreign-aid relief. Evidence showed FGAN had been safely manufactured for four years. The expert witnesses for Dalehite’s estate testified that scientific opinion considered ammonium nitrate potentially dangerous, especially if combined with the material in the fertilizer. The War Production Board conducted tests into the explosion and fire hazards of FGAN. However, the board terminated the tests at an intermediate stage, against the recommendation of the laboratory, preventing further research that might have disclosed suspected but unverified dangers. Moreover, there was a history of unexplained fires and explosions involving ammonium nitrate, which the government attempted to distinguish from the Texas City explosions. The government showed that private persons who manufactured similar fertilizer took no more precautions than the government. The government argued that its decisions as to discontinuing the investigation of hazards, bagging at high temperature, using paper bagging material, the type of moisture-protective coating used, and not adding labeling and warning involved a conscious weighing of expediency against caution and were therefore within the immunity for discretionary acts provided by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court found the government negligent in four specific acts in manufacturing FGAN: the maximum bagging temperature, using paper bags to hold the FGAN, the labeling specifications, and the type of moisture-protective coating. The court of appeals reversed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Reed, J.)


What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 734,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Berkeley, and Northwestern—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students.

    Unlock this case briefRead our student testimonials
  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students.

    Learn about our approachRead more about Quimbee

Here's why 734,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 45,900 briefs, keyed to 984 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Access this case brief for FREE

With a 7-day free trial membership
Here's why 734,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
  • Reliable - written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students
  • The right length and amount of information - includes the facts, issue, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents
  • Access in your class - works on your mobile and tablet
  • 45,900 briefs - keyed to 984 casebooks
  • Uniform format for every case brief
  • Written in plain English - not in legalese and not just repeating the court's language
  • Massive library of related video lessons - and practice questions
  • Top-notch customer support

Access this case brief for FREE

With a 7-day free trial membership