Monday, September 23, 2013

Judge Rules in Favor of the Defendant in Strict Liability Case

On September 16, 2013, a Baltimore City District Court judge held that the Defendant was not strictly liable for water emanating from his roof and onto his neighbor’s property.  RSRM Associate Danielle Williamson represented Defendant homeowner who purchased a Baltimore City rowhome in 2005.  Several years later, construction began next to the Defendant’s home.  The construction included adding a third floor onto the neighboring home.  Defendant began to experience water intrusion as a result of the construction, and the damages associated therewith were subsequently rectified by the then owner of the neighboring home.  

In 2010, construction ceased and the neighboring home was purchased by another owner.  Approximately one month later, the new owner began to complain to Defendant that water was originating from his roof and causing damage throughout her home.  It was eventually discovered that during construction, the gutter system was rerouted on the Defendant’s roof by the general contractors of the neighboring home, resulting in the water flowing in another direction.  Neither Defendant nor any servant of Defendant made any changes to Defendant’s roof.  

Plaintiff neighbor filed suit against Defendant for trespass and nuisance because of the water allegedly flowing into her home.  Plaintiff’s counsel argued at the time of the trial that since the water was originating from Defendant’s roof, Defendant was strictly liable for any damage to Plaintiff’s home under nuisance.  Nuisance is any unreasonable conduct which causes real, substantial, and unreasonable damage to, or interference with, another person’s ordinary use and enjoyment of his or her property.  Experts for both parties testified that construction had taken place on the Plaintiff’s home and agreed that water was emanating from Defendant’s roof.  Ms. Williamson argued that but for the construction that took place on Plaintiff’s home, water would have flowed on Defendant’s roof without issue.  Defendant did not make any changes to his roof, therefore he did not interfere with the use and enjoyment of the Plaintiff’s property.  As the judge heard testimony from both parties and their respective experts, she agreed with Ms. Williamson's arguments that Defendant had not engaged in any unreasonable conduct (or any conduct for that matter) that interfered with the Plaintiff’s use of her property.  The water intrusion issue took place due to the construction that had previously taken place on Plaintiff’s property and Defendant was not strictly liable.  

Judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant.  

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