SW Legal studies in Business

Iowa Adopts Restatement (Third) of Torts; Duty of Care Amended for Property Owners
Description

Iowa high court held that the duty of care owed by property owners to others is governed by the Restatement (Third) of Torts. It focuses on an evaluation of the risks of harm involved, not foreseeability or substantial factor.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Negligence; Duty of Care; Foreseeability; Substantial Factor; Risk of Harm; Restatement (Third)

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Kaczinski, who lives in rural Iowa next to a gravel road, disassembled a trampoline and left it in his yard. Weeks later, a severe thunderstorm blew parts of the trampoline onto the road during the night. The next morning, Thompson, driving down the road, swerved when he saw the trampoline parts in the road, lost control, and rolled his car. He and his wife were injured and sued Kaczinski for negligence. Kaczinski contended he owed no duty of care under the circumstances because the circumstances that led to the trampoline being blown onto the road were not foreseeable. The district court granted Kaczinski’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed; Thompson appealed.

Decision

Affirmed in part; reversed in part; remanded. State law prohibits placing an obstruction in a road. But that addresses intentional, not negligent or unintentional, behavior, so is not relevant here. Property owners have a common-law duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid allowing their property to obstruct a road. The Restatement (Third) of Torts is adopted by Iowa. It removes consideration of foreseeability from the determination of duty in negligence actions. Liability is limited to those physical harms that result from the risks that make an actor’s conduct tortious. Under the Restatement, liability is not determined by whether an actor’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing harm. Therefore, it should be determined at trial whether the injury to Thompson was within the range of harms risked by the actions of the property owner.

Citation Thompson v. Kaczinksi, ---N.W.2d--- (2009 WL 3786631, Sup. Ct., Iowa, 2009)

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