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Duty to Exercise Due Care

The liability of an excavating landowner does not extend over injuries to buildings on adjoining land unless the excavating landowner acts negligently in the manner of excavating.  Reasonable skill, prudence and care need to be exercised by a person engaged in excavation for the safety of buildings on adjacent land.  A person engaged in excavation has to be careful enough not to endanger the buildings unnecessarily, and should not trench upon the neighbor’s soil negligently; should not damage or weaken surrounding buildings or structures, or use outdated or disapproved methods in doing the work.

If an excavator exercises reasonable care and caution as is ordinary and prudent under the circumstances of the particular case in making the excavation, the excavator cannot be held liable for the consequences.  Liability exists only if the excavator acted negligently and in an unskillful manner.

If adjoining land sinks and falls due to negligent excavations, the excavators can be held liable for the damage to both land and buildings of the adjoiner.  In the absence of negligence, a landowner is not liable for excavating in such a manner that the adjoining property caves in due to the weight of a building on that land.  However, if the adjoining land falls solely from the weight of the superstructures as a result of an excavation, liability is not attached for injury either to the soil or the superstructures.

The degree of care and caution required to be exercised by the excavator has to be proportionate to the danger involved.

Inside Duty to Exercise Due Care