South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Duty to Warn of Hazards on Property Owned by Others
Description New York high court held that a property owner, who was aware that a tree on neighboring property was leaning, had no duty to warn others that the tree could possibly fall, as it did, and kill someone. The property owner did not cause the problem to occur and so violated no duty to warn others of the danger involved.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Duty to Warn
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts On June 2, a severe thunderstorm struck the Town of Clarkston, New York. After the storm, Clark, a homeowner, noticed that a tree on city land next to his property, was leaning. Afraid that it might fall, and that it could strike his house or driveway, he called the city twice and pointed out the tree to city workers who he saw on the street. Four days after the storm, the tree fell on the driveway. It killed the husband of Clark's housekeeper who was waiting in his car to take her home after work. The housekeeper sued the Town, which settled the case. She sued Clark for failure to warn them of the danger posed by the leaning tree. The trial court granted summary judgment for Clark; the Appellate Division affirmed; Galindo appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. "A landowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining his own property in a reasonably safe condition under the circumstances. The nature and scope of that duty and the persons to whom it is owed require consideration of the likelihood of injury to another from a dangerous condition on the property, the seriousness of the potential injury, the burden of avoiding the risk and the foreseeability of a potential plaintiff's presence on the property." However, an owner owes no duty to warn or to protect others from a dangerous condition on neighboring premises, unless the owner had created or contributed to it. A person who lacks ownership or control of property cannot be fairly held accountable for injuries resulting from a hazard on the property. Similarly, there is no duty to warn of dangers because it would create an unreasonable burden to require land owners to evaluate dangers on surrounding property and warn others of such dangers.

Citation Galindo v. Town of Clarkston, --- NE2d --- (2004 WL 1064305, Ct. App., NY, 2004)

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