Property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to avoid causing harm to neighboring properties. In Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Ins. Exch., 2020 Md. LEXIS 347 (July 27, 2020) (Steamfitters Local), a matter originally discussed in a June 2019 blog post, the Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed that, where the property owner knows or should have known that people are habitually discarding hundreds of cigarette butts into a mulch bed along the boundary of the neighboring property, the property owner owes a duty to its neighbors to prevent the risk of fire. Continue reading
Foreseeability is a tort concept that tends to permeate several aspects of legal analysis, often causing confusion in litigants’ interpretation of, and courts’ application of, foreseeability to their cases. In Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Progress Rail Services. Corp., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73967 (C.D. Ill.), the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois took on the task of analyzing a case dealing with foreseeability issues to determine if the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty and if the damages were so remote as to violate public policy. The court held that since the defendant’s actions contributed to the risk of harm to the plaintiff and the facts satisfied the four-prong duty test, the defendant owed the plaintiff’s subrogor a duty of reasonable care. It also held that the plaintiff’s damage claim did not open the defendant up to liability that would violate public policy. Continue reading
In Westfield Ins. Group v. Pure Renovations, LLC, 2019-Ohio-4773, 2019 Ohio App. LEXIS 4829, the Court of Appeals of Ohio considered whether the lower court properly granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion. In its motion, the defendant argued that the plaintiff could not prove that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the fire at issue because the plaintiff’s liability expert identified two possible causes of the fire. The Court of Appeals, finding issues of fact remain as to whether the defendant was solely responsible for both possible causes, reversed the summary judgment ruling. This case establishes that, in Ohio, if all likely causes implicate solely the defendant’s alleged negligent conduct, a plaintiff’s inability to identify, definitively, one cause of a loss does not necessarily preclude the plaintiff from establishing proximate cause.
In Conn. Interlocal Risk Mgmt. Agency v. Jackson, 2019 Conn. LEXIS 230 (Sept. 1, 2019) (Conn. Interlocal), the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered a careless smoking case and whether, as a matter of first impression, Connecticut should adopt the alternative liability doctrine first set forth in Summers v. Tice, 199 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1948). Recognizing that the doctrine is a sound one, the court adopted it for cases proceeding in Connecticut. Continue reading
Property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to avoid causing harm to neighboring properties. When a property owner knows or should know about a condition that poses a risk of danger to neighboring properties, the property owner must exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently held that, where hundreds of discarded cigarette butts had accumulated in a bed of mulch over an extended period of time prior to the fire at issue, the owner of the property with the mulch beds owed a duty of care to its neighbors to prevent a foreseeable fire. Continue reading