If I rent in a multi-family property and accidentally started a fire while cooking outdoors, am I responsible for damages to another tenant’s car?

Asked on October 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Mississippi


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You would be liable for negligence for the damage to the tenant's car.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care in this case that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent the fire from damaging the car).  In order to prove negligence, the other tenant will have to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care), actual cause, proximate cause, and damages.

Actual cause means but for the fire would the car have been damaged?  If the answer is no, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening events which would relieve you of liability? If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation the other tenant is seeking in a lawsuit for negligence against you.  Damages would be the cost of repairs to the car.  The other tenant is required to mitigate (minimize) damages by selecting an auto repair shop whose fees are comparable to other auto repair shops in the area.  If the other tenant selected the most expensive repair shop he/she could find, his/her damages would be reduced accordingly.  The other tenant will need to file the lawsuit for negligence prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or will lose his/her rights forever in the matter.


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