Question about Liability?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by kgcs, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. kgcs

    kgcs LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 304

    I installed a system for a commercial customer during the summer. This fall, I called about winterizing and they said that they wanted to leave it on during the winter to water the rye grass. Usually we do not have many freezing days in the south but this year has been a different year. Well today they had a customer slip and fall on one of the icy sidewalks and they called me and asked me to turn the system off. I told them I will turn it off and will order a freeze sensor to prevent this from happening in the future. I have no idea how bad the fall was but if the customer was seriously injured and sued the business, is it possible my business could get sued also? I warned the customer about possible freezing weather (I was referring more or less to the pipes, not really the water freezing on sidewalks) but the customer said they would take their chances. My business is fully insured but I prefer not to be sued!!
     
  2. ztman

    ztman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,007

    Any one can sue you for any reason, but based on your description you should not be concerned. The fact that a customer does not take precautions to prevent pipes from freezing in record low temps, is not something you would be responsible for.
     
  3. kgcs

    kgcs LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 304

    I'm not concerned about the frozen pipes, that's covered in my warranty stating it is not covered. I'm concerned about the person slipping in falling from the irrigation system.
     
  4. ztman

    ztman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,007

    If the lady slipped and fell because the customer was using the system in freezing temps, that's their problem

    If the lady slipped and fell because the customer didn't prevent the pipes from freezing and they broke causing ice on the side walk, that's their problem.

    If the leak was caused by faulty workmanship, that's your problem.

    By the way, most slip and fall law suits, if they go to trial, are found in favor of the defendant. Very simple defense. Person who fell is always asked if they were looking where they were walking. If the say yes, they should have seen the condition that caused the injury. If they say no, then they should have been.

    Bottom line, I wouldn't loose any sleep over this.
     
  5. kgcs

    kgcs LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 304

    That puts my mind at some ease. My insurance has dropped for the last 3 years and I would like to keep that trend going!
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  6. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,700

    Like anything you want to make sure that you have a paper trail on any matter that could come back and potentially bite you in the ass like this. If you have an e-mail chain between you and the client discussing their choice to not winterize the system you're in good shape. There are certain things that I always make sure that I communicate in writing with clients rather than just getting a verbal approval or direction over the phone.
     
  7. kgcs

    kgcs LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 304

    That is a good idea and I will start including this in my sprinkler system contracts regarding slip & falls. Can never be to careful when we live in a sue happy society.
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  8. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Posts: 1,836

    I would not be surprised at all if you get named in a suit if one gets filed, attorney's generally name everyone they can think of and then focus on whoever has the deepest pockets. I could see an attorney arguing that this was foreseeable and you're negligent for not installing a freeze sensor, especially since you're installing one reactively. If you offered a freeze sensor to the customer with your original proposal and they declined then you'd be in the clear, if it wasn't offered, you'll probably have to defend yourself but that's what insurance is for. Good luck.
     
  9. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,700

    We were named in a slip and fall lawsuit at an apartment complex. There was water surfacing in the parking lot but it was not from the irrigation system. It was from a leaky fire sprinkler line at the 8" fire system backflow. Everybody who they thought might be remotely liable got named. We proved that it wasn't our issue but last I heard nothing ever came of the suit.
     
  10. kgcs

    kgcs LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 304

    Well just spoke with the manager and she said the owner said just go ahead and turn it off for the winter and don't worry about installing a freeze sensor. Hopefully no legal action will take place but I guess time will tell. She said the person who fell busted their head but I am not aware of what severity.
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