In the case of an accidentaldeath on someone’s property, is the landowner liable?

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In the case of an accidentaldeath on someone’s property, is the landowner liable?

My fiancee was a logger. While cutting down a tree, it hit another tree branch, which kicked back and crushed his skull. It killed him instantly. The contract between him and the landowner stated that the owner was free from any litigation and personal injury. Is there any liability on the landowner’s insurance?  Does the family have a case for wrongful death?

Asked on December 29, 2010 under Personal Injury, Michigan

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.   In order to collect from the landowners insurance policy you would have to prove that there was liability on the part of the landowner.  You would have to prove some form of negligence.  It appears that there was a contract signed by the parties involved and that your fiancee may have assumed liability for injuries caused by his own actions (although that would be a general principle of law anyway; you can not sue someone for your own negligence). The  best thing for you to do is to go and to speak with a attorney as soon as you can on the latter.  Consultations are generally free in these type of cases.  And the statute of limitations are generally short so do so quickly.  What I am afraid of is that your fiancee was the expert here and unless there was some hidden defect known to the landowner you do not have a case.  Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The main issues are as follows:

1) Was the landlowner in some way negligent or otherwise at fault? From what you write, it's hard ot see how they were--it sounds like this is one of the accidents which are not uncommon enough in logging, and account for it being such a dangerous industry. If a tree falling hit another branch and "kicked back," it's hard to see what the landowner did wrong.

2) Even if there may have been some fault on the landowner's part, was this a foreseeable risk of logging? If it was a normal and foreseeable risk, then it may be that by doing the job, your fiance assumed the risk.

Your fiance's family should probably talk with a personal injury attorney, who can give them a recommendation or evaluation as to any potential suits based on all the specifics of the situation. From what you write, however, the answer will probably be that unless there is something more going on--something wrongful on the landowner's part--there is no liability.


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