In, Ainsworth v. Lakin, [i] the Supreme Court held that, landowner has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent structures from becoming dangerous to adjoining owners. In Ainsworth, defendant was the owner of the land and first two stories of a building which stood upon the land. Plaintiff was the adjoining landowner. A fire broke out from the defendants building which destroyed plaintiff’s property. The Court observed that, the measure of landowner’s duty is that s/he shall use reasonable care to prevent structures from becoming dangerous to adjoining owners. However the degree of care required has to be proportionate with the danger involved.[ii]
In, Pradelt v. Lewis, the Court ordered that the landowners are bound to take precautions in method of building construction and material used while constructing buildings. Also, the buildings may not lean upon the property of adjoining owners.[iii] In Pradelt, the brick building of the adjoining owner was leaning onto the cornice of the roof of the land owner’s building causing building to be injured and crushed. The Court held adjoining owner liable.
A landowner is liable even if the damage is caused from pile driving operations before constructing a building.[iv] In Roundabout Theatre Co. v. Tishman Realty & Constr. Co.,[v] The Court held that, a land owner’s duty of care does not extend to an adjoining owner who, as result of a temporary street closure due to a construction site accident, suffered only economic loss. In Roundabout Theatre Co, plaintiff, a theater owner sued defendants, a property owner and a general contractor, to recover for economic loss occasioned by temporary street closures after a construction elevator tower attached to defendants’ building collapsed. The Court ordered that a landowner’s duty of care extended only to those suffered personal injury or property damage, and not to those who suffered only economic loss.
[i] 180 Mass. 397 (Mass. 1902)
[ii] Brown v. Gessler, 191 Ore. 503 (Or. 1951)
[iii] 297 Ill. 374 (Ill. 1921)
[iv] Divicent v. Sanderson, 239 La. 51 (La. 1960)
[v] 302 A.D.2d 272 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2003)