Who is liable if a contractor working on my home turned on an outside faucet without my knowledge and it resulted in damage to the house?

No water came out and the contractor neglected to turn off the faucet. Later, my wife heard water running. She spoke to the contractors, learned about the open faucet and realized that water was flooding into out basement. After talking to a plumber, I learned that my pipe froze and burst during the winter and turning on the faucet lead to the flooding. Who is liable for the damage in this instance me, the contractor or is it shared liability?

Asked on July 9, 2014 under Real Estate Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, it is most likely shared liability:

1) The contractor should *not* have opened a faucet and left it open--it is negligent, or unreasonably careless, to have done that.

2) However, it would not have been an issue unless your pipe had frozen, and that is very possibly due to some amount of negligence on your part (e.g. not keeping a crawlspace or basement or home generally at the right temperature; not having pipes insulated; etc.)--and to the extent it's not your actual fault, certainly, the pipes freezing, a major contributor to the damage, is not the contractor's fault.

Since the contractor's actions, even if negligent, were not the sole cause of damage, it is most likely that the liability is shared (or rather: they are only liable for a portion of it, that portion attributable to their actions).

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