Am I liable for damages caused by an act of nature? 24 Answers as of January 05, 2011

My canopy blew over and landed on my neighbors roof. It caused very minor damage but they want me to pay to get it fixed. Am i liable for the damages if the wind blew it, since that is an act of nature?

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Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
If a truly is an act of nature, you probably are not liable. However, if there are things you could have or should have done to secure the canopy, then you could be held liable. Your insurance company for your homeowner's policy can make a determination.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/5/2011
David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
In my opinion, you are not liable for an act of God.s
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 1/5/2011
Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
Possibly, if you failed to have it secured. While winds are acts of nature, they are not unsuspected or unanticipated acts of nature, and if you did not have your canopy secured properly, you may be liable. I would go ahead and call your homeowners insurance company and give them all the information. A failure to timely notify your insurance company of the fact a claim is being presented against you might possibly adversely affect your coverage.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 1/5/2011
The Connelly Firm P.C.
The Connelly Firm P.C. | Thomas Connelly
All negligence involves an "act of god" at some point in the causal chain, otherwise it wouldn't be negligence, but rather an intentional tort, like battery or trespass. Their case against you is weak, but is it worth destroying your relationship with your neighbors by fighting? Offer them an apology and some nominal compensation.
Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
Replied: 1/5/2011
Premier Law Group
Premier Law Group | Jason Epstein
It is not really possible to answer your question with the facts you have provided. I will say, however, that what you call 'an act of nature' may be viewed by others as your negligence. In other words, if you failed to properly secure your canopy, then it would be your fault that it blew off. Best of luck.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 1/4/2011
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
    You are liable for the damage caused by your property regardless of mother nature. You can turn the claim into your homeowners or pay for it yourself, whichever is cheapest.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O.
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O. | Eric R. Chandler
    I would contact your homeowners insurance carrier. That sounds like a situation that would be covered under most policies.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    You should contact your home owners' insurance and your neighbors should contact theirs as well. These types of things are usually specifically addressed in your insurance contract - just read very, very carefully.

    Ultimately, your neighbors could take you to court (likely small claims court), and sue you. It would come down to this: between you and your neighbors, who should bear the cost of your property blowing into their yard. I think there's a good chance you would lose.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Harris Law Firm
    Harris Law Firm | Paul Vames
    The facts and circumstances will ultimately determine whether your conduct created a foreseeable risk that damage would occur. The issues of whether or not you properly maintained the canopy; whether or not the canopy met applicable building codes; etc. will play a role in determining whether or not you are liable to your neighbor for the damage to his or her roof. If the canopy was in disrepair, the fact that wind is an "act of nature" is inconsequential. In general, wind is not unforeseeable.

    Unless you want to defend this matter yourself, you probably should put your homeowner's insurer on notice of this as soon as possible and discontinue talking to your neighbor or his representatives about the incident. Assuming you have typical homeowner's coverage, your insurer will investigate the incident, defend you if necessary, and indemnify you if necessary. Any delay in reporting the incident may jeopardize your coverage.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Willens Law Offices
    Willens Law Offices | Matthew Willens
    Perhaps. Your neighbors would likely argue that your canopy was not secured down properly and that is why the wind was able to blow over. If you have homeowner's insurance, I would suggest you make a claim with them.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
    Generally you are not responsible for such damage. However, if your canopy was not attached properly or there were other issues with it then you could be held liable. I would contact my homeowners agent immediately and let them know a claim is being made and then let them handle it.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    It would depend on how you had the canopy tied down. If you were negligent in attaching it then you could be responsible
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    You are liable but their insurance should cover it as well. Call you homeowners agent as they can work it out with your neighbors carrier.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    You might be liable (i.e. for not securing the canopy well enough) but this seems like something your homeowners insurance should cover - contact them.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    You should contact your homeowners insurance to see if there is coverage. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    This is a tough question. You should contact your homeowners insurance (depending on the amount of the repairs to your neighbors property as to whether it is worth making a claim, taking into account your deductible and whether the claim will raise your rates in the future. I found the following case law:

    The court then advised the jury that an act of God meant such an unusual and extraordinary manifestation of the forces of nature that it could not normally be anticipated or expected; that a defendant was not liable for a loss occasioned by an act of God unless his own negligence had contributed to the damage; and that in order for a defendant to sustain the defense of act of God, he was required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the icy condition was of such an unprecedented nature that no ordinary or reasonable amount of care would have prevented the damage.

    It has been held that in order to constitute an act of God, a storm must be so unusual in its proportions that it could not be anticipated by a defendant. (Inyo Chemical Co. v. City of Los Angeles (1936) 5 Cal.2d 525, 532-535, 55 P.2d 850.) Also, a rainstorm of merely unusual intensity is not an act of God. (Sturges v. Charles L. Harney, Inc. (1958) 165 Cal.App.2d 306, 320, 331 P.2d 1072.) Likewise, a wind which is not a hurricane nor of such unheard of violence as to be beyond all contemplation or expectation does not amount to an act of God. (Holt Manufacturing Co. v. Thornton (1902) 136 Cal. 232, 235, 68 P. 708.) In the instant case, ice was not in the least unusual in the Larkspur area in the winter, and its formation on the surface of the Bon Air Bridge was an occurrence which clearly cannot be deemed beyond all contemplation or expectation.

    I was not able to find a case that discussed your exact scenario. The foregoing case was a personal injury auto collision, not a property damage case, but other cases state the same general theory that an Act of God defense may exculpate you from liability so long as there is no human intervention giving rise to the damage or injury. There are a bunch of cases where branches or entire trees blew onto a neighbors property and they were held NOT to be an act of God.

    If I were the neighbor I would argue that you knew at this time of year winds can be very high and that your canopy should have been retracted or taken down during the winter months. You, on the other hand, can raise the act of God defense because it presumably never happened before and you had no idea this could even happen. You may also have a claim against the manufacturer of the canopy or the contractor that installed it. But since we are talking about property damage and not an injury to a person, either your insurance or their insurance should cover this incident.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm | Francis Hajek
    I understand that the wind caused your canopy to blow onto your neighbor's roof and that wind is a force of nature. However, I think that a broader view of the situation is appropriate. The canopy was yours and there is an argument that it was not properly secured. Additionally, if the damage is minor, good relations with a neighbor are important. So although the decision is yours, I think prudence (and Dear Abby) would recommend payment.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    No. This is called an Act of God in law. This assumes you did not do anything negligent about the matter, like failure to maintain etc etc.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Van Sant & Slover LLC
    Van Sant & Slover LLC | David Van Sant
    It depends on whether the canopy was not maintained properly and presented a hazard. The real question will be whether it was foreseeable that this could happen. If so, you may have been negligent in some way.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law | Ron Graham
    Contact your homeowners insurance and they may pay for the damage.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 1/4/2011
    Dack Marasigan, LLP
    Dack Marasigan, LLP | Martin E. Dack, Esq
    In General No one is responsible for the acts of nature as they are beyond our control
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/3/2011
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates | Sheldon J. Aberman
    You may be held liable if the manner in which you installed or maintained the canopy is found to have been negligent.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 1/3/2011
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