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BME_Law

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Liability Question
« on: December 23, 2008, 04:22:20 PM »
Facts: Landlord hires communications company to install fiber optic cable.  Landlord tells tenants that it is mandatory.  During installation, communications company causes water pipe to burst, putting three families out of their respective apartments.  2 have renter's insurance, 1 does not.  Communication company admits fault.

Issue: Even though comm. company admitted fault, is there any claim against the landlord?  Is the comm. company liable to any party to pay for a place to live (assuming no insurance or insurance does not cover it)?

Communication company has admitted fault, so they should liable to all parties involved.  Their error caused the residence to be uninhabitable, and therefore, they should pay for the families to reside at a reasonable expense.

vap

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Re: Liability Question
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2008, 04:54:47 PM »
Facts: Landlord hires communications company to install fiber optic cable.  Landlord tells tenants that it is mandatory.  During installation, communications company causes water pipe to burst, putting three families out of their respective apartments.  2 have renter's insurance, 1 does not.  Communication company admits fault.

Issue: Even though comm. company admitted fault, is there any claim against the landlord?  Is the comm. company liable to any party to pay for a place to live (assuming no insurance or insurance does not cover it)?

Communication company has admitted fault, so they should liable to all parties involved.  Their error caused the residence to be uninhabitable, and therefore, they should pay for the families to reside at a reasonable expense.

Warning: Torts/Property was a long time ago for me, so my analysis is probably pretty bad!

Claims Against Landlord.

Tenants v. Landlord
1.  Not likely b/c respondeat superior does not apply when party hires an independent contractor.  Possible exceptions: non-delegable duty or intrinsically dangerous activity (unlikely to apply).
2.  Tenants would need to prove independent negligence; that is, Landlord was negligent in selecting an irresponsible communications company.
3.  Possibly Landlord violated an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, and this would be considered constructive eviction by the landlord, but I'm really not sure about this.
4.  Also would need to check lease K to make sure Tenants did not waive such claims.

Comm. Co. v. Landlord
1.  Only if Comm. Co. can prove independent negligence of Landlord could Comm. Co. have a claim of contribution against Landlord.  This is unlikely given that Comm. Co. has admitted fault.

Whether Comm. Co. Liable to Pay for Tenant's Place to Live
I would think so.  There was a duty owed, a breach, causation, and damages.  The damages here are past economic damages.  Although a lease is specifically measurable, I would think Comm. Co. would have to compensate Tenants for damages in excess of the lease amount (that is, if Tenants incurred more damages than the lease was worth, Comm. Co. is likely liable for the higher cost).  But, Tenants will have a duty to mitigate damages.


beaverfuzz

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Re: Liability Question
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2008, 03:33:30 AM »
This sounds very similar to a case we read in torts recently:

J'Aire Corp. v. Gregory, 598 P.2d 60 (Cal.1979)