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Old 01-22-2013, 03:29 PM
 
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Since we live in a supposedly litigious society and there is so many options in insurance, thought we could share some knowledge related to this. Let me start this thread with a scenario:

A car is parked on the street in front of my house. A basketball hoop in my yard falls on that car on a windy day and damages the roof. Who is liable for it? Will my Home Owner insurance pay for it? Will the owner's car insurance pay for it?

Doe it get any more complex if I own the car as well?


(feel free to add any kid of question, and others please answer to the best of your knowledge. This is not supposed to be legal opinion, so hopefully this is allowed here.)

Last edited by FromGA; 01-22-2013 at 03:41 PM..
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Old 01-22-2013, 03:32 PM
 
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Joe owns and lives in Alpharetta in a townhouse where there are 5 townhouses in a row. He accidentally starts a kitchen fire. The fire destoys all 5 townhouses. Is he liable for damage to any of the other townhouses?

What if one of the home owners does not have any home owners insurance?

What if Joe was a tenant in that townhouse?
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Old 01-22-2013, 03:37 PM
 
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Jill lives in a condo in Atlanta. Her bathroom has some issues, and the water overflows, and floods her condo. The water also leaks to the condo below hers.

Is Jill liable for anything that happened to the condo below hers?

What if the person in the condo below her lodges a complaint that Jill did this on purpose, because they did not get along. That is, alleges criminal intent.
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:27 PM
 
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To the best of my non-lawyer ability:

Quote:
A basketball hoop in my yard falls on that car on a windy day and damages the roof. Who is liable for it?
The owner of the basketball hoop. A tree might be a different story, but the owner of something like a basketball hoop has a legal responsibility to take reasonable precautions to ensure that the structure is firm and will not fall due to wind. If it is a natural disaster like a tornado, it is probably a different story.

Quote:
Will my Home Owner insurance pay for it?
I would think so, but it may vary based on what policy you have. It's a gray enough area so that they may try to get out of it. Depending on the damage done, it might be easier to pay out of pocket than deal with insurance hassles and raised premiums.

Quote:
Will the owner's car insurance pay for it?
Maybe, but if the car ownder files a claim with his insurance company, that company will definitely try to come after you or your insurance company.

Quote:
Doe it get any more complex if I own the car as well?
I would think you would file with your car insurance company in that case because it's probably easier to deal with than your homeowners insurance. But I'm not sure who would really be the most logical choice.

Quote:
He accidentally starts a kitchen fire. The fire destoys all 5 townhouses. Is he liable for damage to any of the other townhouses?
Yes.

Quote:
What if one of the home owners does not have any home owners insurance?
Then they will contact the owner's insurance company themselves to get the money. Either that, or hire a lawyer to do it for them.

Quote:
What if Joe was a tenant in that townhouse?
He is still liable. Unless it can be proven that the townhouse did not have required fire extinguishers, smoke deterctors, etc., then the other affected tenants could go after whoever owns the townhouse.


Quote:
Is Jill liable for anything that happened to the condo below hers?
Jill is liable for all of it.

Quote:
What if the person in the condo below her lodges a complaint that Jill did this on purpose, because they did not get along. That is, alleges criminal intent.
I think it would be irrelevant. Jill's liability does not change no matter how it happend, she is fully liable whether she did it on purpose or if it was a complete accident so her intent does not matter. In a serious matter the DA may file criminal charges, but I doubt any DA would pursue a case like that. The intent could be brought up in front of a judge, but it wouldn't really matter because the judge would find for the paintinff againg Jill anyway.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:25 PM
 
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Thanks ATL. Hope you found my case studies interesting!

So how does a townhouse or condo owner protect themselves against liability of destroying other people's townhouse/condo? Is it part of the insurance policy for their townhouse/condo? Does townhouse/condo insurance get expensive because of this?
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:02 PM
 
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The best thing to do is to just not be an idiot.

I don't think you have to worry much about burning the place down with a kitchen fire. A kitchen fire happens when you are home, so it is unlikely to burn out of control, you are there to put it out. Most other sources of fire, unless you are a fool and smoke in bed or something, are probably going to be things that are not your fault like electrical wiring, etc. Even if a fire is partially your fault, a lot of them are very difficult to prove. I think most insurance companies would give up trying to prove it because it is so expensive to do so. Also, unless you have really deep pockets, it's probably not worth it for them to come after you. Even if they win, what are they going to get? They can't take your home our your 401(k), and most people don't have a ton of assets

I'm not sure if the overall townhome community takes out any type of umbrella policy to cover everybody, but I doubt it. My hunch is that in a push come to shove situation, everybody's individual policy is going to cover them. So in your fire example, I doubt any insurace company would pursue a case against the person who started it because it would be a waste of time and money. How much are they really going to get? That's what a lot of legal wrangling is, going after who has the deepest pockets. What might happen is the other insurance companies go after the person who started the fire's insurance company and he may become uninsurable in the future. But even then, he can probably write to the state insurance commissioner and they will force a company to insure him. I'm not even sure if the insurance companies will do this, because they know the other insurance company has the money and resources to fight against them in proving fault. I'm not sure how these situations generally resolve.

In the Jill example, I would think that the downstairs neighbor or their insurance company is going to go after Jill or her insurance company hard. That's because the water damage is probably in the neighborhood of $10k or so, depending on how bad the damage is. Jill probably has assets that can cover this, and they may even approve garnishing wages to cover this type of thing. You can't get blood from a stone, so if someone causes $500k in damages, what can you do? But if they cause $10k, it probably makes more sense to go seek it. Jill will probably also suck it up and just pay the $10k to make the case go away. If you sue someone for $500k and they lose, that person will just declare bankruptcy or walk away and go off the grid so they are impossible to find.

I'm not a lawyer, even though I do love the law. I have learned over time that the system is funny in that it is not always fair. It rewards those who know how it works and often who ends up paying the price is the person who is most able to do so, not who is really at fault.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:16 AM
 
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I was watching this TV show Mindy Project (hilarious show) last evening, and the story line used the case of office upstairs leaking water to the downstairs!

I wrote my case-story before I saw that as I have always been curious.

In addition to what you find funny, one funny thing is that we sign so many legal documents without knowing much about the consequences. How many times have we gone to an office, and someone hands us 10 sheets of paper, and 2 minutes to read/sign.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:40 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FromGA View Post
In addition to what you find funny, one funny thing is that we sign so many legal documents without knowing much about the consequences. How many times have we gone to an office, and someone hands us 10 sheets of paper, and 2 minutes to read/sign.
Just about every time I've ever bought a car or a house, checked into a hospital, logged into Facebook, bought an airline ticket or done anything else when I should have read the paperwork. I'm terrible about not doing that.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:04 PM
 
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One time when I lived in an apartment, a decoration that I had in my aquarium started leaking water out of the air intake tube. This caused water to slowly spill out onto the floor and it eventually dripped into the ceiling of the apartment below me.

The people downstairs were really nice about it and the complex maintenance man came and replaced the bit of ceiling for them right away, but since it was because of my aquarium, I was liable for the damage. Since it was only like $100, I just laughed it off and wrote a check, but I bet I wouldn't have been able to get off the hook even if I tried. The point is, I knew it was my fault, so I just accepted it and said lesson learned.

Had it caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, though, I imagine the apartment's insurance company's lawyers would have left me alone and gone after the company that manufactured the decoration arguing that no reasonable decoration designed for aquarium use should leak water when used properly. If they came after me, my lawyer would probably argue that they should go after the aquarium decoration company in court.

One thing I remember learning in business law class is that it doesn't always matter who is right, what matters is what a jury of 12 people think. And who do you think they relate to most? A normal person pretty much minding his own business, or a gigantic corporation?

That's why tenants hold a lot of cards. Everybody knows what it is like to be screwed over by a landlord, but very few people can relate to being a landlord and having a crummy tenant. Of course, cases like this rarely make it in front of juries because people who can't win in front of juries know it and do everything they can to keep it from going that far.
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