if someone is injured on your property while making a repair that you did not request, can you be held liable?

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if someone is injured on your property while making a repair that you did not request, can you be held liable?

A friend stopped over and wanted to make himself useful and offered to clean my gutters. I told him several time that I did not want or need him to clean the gutters, however he insisted on going on the roof. To make matters worse, for some reason he went up the ladder barefoot. He then fell about 7 feet onto my concrete patio. Both of his feet were broken and he needs surgery. He will not be able to walk or work for roughly 4 months. He has health insurance but I think that he intends to go after my homeowner’s insurance. My initial thoughts are that I would not be liable as the homeowner since I was not negligent. But I am looking for comments from the experts.

Asked on July 21, 2014 under Personal Injury, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You are right, in that a homeowner is not liable simply because someone else was injured on their property; rather, for liability to attach, the homeowner would have to have been "at fault" in some way, such as by creating a dangerous condition (e.g. having stairs or a stair rail in bad repair, so that they break when someone uses them). Also, even if you had done anything to incur liability, your friend's liability based on his carelessness or negligence--climbing a ladder in bare feet--would act as an offset and tend to at least reduce your effective liability. From what you write, you may well have good defenses to liability. If he does sue or threaten to, however, you do have to report it to your insurer--generally, failure to report claims voids coverage--and let them look into the matter and decide how they want to handle it. Unless they disclaim coverage, you probably will not need your own attorney or worry about the claim, unless he tries to sue for more than your coverage; and if they do disclaim coverage, if you believe they were wrong to do so, you could sue your insurer for breach of contract.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You are right, in that a homeowner is not liable simply because someone else was injured on their property; rather, for liability to attach, the homeowner would have to have been "at fault" in some way, such as by creating a dangerous condition (e.g. having stairs or a stair rail in bad repair, so that they break when someone uses them). Also, even if you had done anything to incur liability, your friend's liability based on his carelessness or negligence--climbing a ladder in bare feet--would act as an offset and tend to at least reduce your effective liability. From what you write, you may well have good defenses to liability. If he does sue or threaten to, however, you do have to report it to your insurer--generally, failure to report claims voids coverage--and let them look into the matter and decide how they want to handle it. Unless they disclaim coverage, you probably will not need your own attorney or worry about the claim, unless he tries to sue for more than your coverage; and if they do disclaim coverage, if you believe they were wrong to do so, you could sue your insurer for breach of contract.


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