If a satellite dish was installed on a chimney and then 7 years later fell off in a storm anddamaged my chimney, couldI go back to the satellite?

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If a satellite dish was installed on a chimney and then 7 years later fell off in a storm anddamaged my chimney, couldI go back to the satellite?

Asked on October 20, 2011 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your homeowner's policy covers the damage to the chimney, it would probably be advisable to have that policy pay for the damage.

The reason is that although you can try to file a lawsuit for negligence against the satellite dish company, it would be difficult to prevail. If you lose, you will be liable for the attorney's fees for the satellite dish company.

It would be difficult to prevail in a negligence case.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that in this case a reasonable satellite dish company would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm). In order to prove negligence, you would have to prove duty of due care (mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to properly install the satellite dish), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.  It would be difficult to prove breach of duty because the satellite stayed up for seven years so it must have been installed properly.  Actual cause means but for the satellite installation, would the chimney have been damaged?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening events which would relieve the satellite dish company of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  The problem is that the answer is yes, because the storm caused the satellite dish to fall and damage the chimney.  This would be considered an act of God and therefore would be an unforeseeable, intervening event which would relieve the satellite dish company of liability.

It would be difficult for you to prove that a storm of such intensity was foreseeable and therefore the company is liable since this had not occurred in the seven years since the satellite dish antenna had been installed.  The company could also claim that other elements of negligence had not been proven.  For example, the satellite dish antenna was installed seven years ago and that length of time without it collapsing would indicate that it was installed properly and therefore it would be difficult to prove breach of the duty of care.


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