It seems like a hilarious headline, but for the woman in question, it was a big drama. As the owner of a house, she held the co-owner, her husband, liable for serious injuries she sustained. The story came to my mind again today, after I received a damage report from a customer this afternoon. Due to the strong wind today, a piece of roofing felt had come loose from his house. As a result, a parked car was severely damaged.
The owner of the car had already held my customer liable immediately. And on the basis of Art. 6:174 Civil Code. My customer would be liable as the owner of a building. His question to me was, of course, whether that was possible. Unfortunately for my client, he is in principle liable. And the liability of homeowners goes far. Very far, as the following case will show. Also for co-owners.
Liability as the owner of a superstructure weighs heavily.
What happened in the case of the woman who held her wife liable? For the injuries she sustained from the building? The woman owned a home; co-owner with her husband. One bad day she hung a hammock in the garden, one end of which was attached to a stone pillar. After she lay down in the suspension file, this pillar broke off. The unfortunate lady got the heavy colossus on top of her, and was very badly injured. In the end, she was left with a complete spinal cord injury as a result of the accident. She was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. In just a few seconds everything changed.
The stone pillar was of course flawed, that was soon clear. But who was responsible for that? After all, the pillar belonged to her own house.
But then things take a strange turn….
She is advised to co-owner of the house to hold liable: her husband. Not that she thought he could do anything about it. No, she addressed him as possessor of the installation. After all, she had suffered damage caused by a defective building. And art. Article 6:174 of the Dutch Civil Code is clear about this: the possessor is then in principle liable. As a property owner, you have very few options to get out of it. You really have to be able to prove that damage caused by your building was not the result of a defect. And the husband, of course, could not do that, because the defect was, of course, obvious here.
How did it turn out for the co-owner?
The couple appealed to their private liability insurance company, Achmea. . However, this insurer refused to pay the personal injury. Achmea found that the section of the law, which regulates the liability of the owner of a superficies, only relates to third parties. And therefore not on co-owners. However, the Court held that that provision was not included in the law. In other words, the law failed here. This special situation was never taken into account.
In the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the woman. Co-owners can also be liable for damage caused by a building to other owners. The liability, and therefore the amount of damage, was limited to half, because the other half was owned by the woman herself. After all, she couldn’t hold herself accountable.
The private liability insurance covers the damage third partiescaused by the home of the insured.
Like the damage to the parked car that I started this story with. It now appears that also co-owners of a building can sometimes successfully appeal to this insurance
The relevant judgment of the Supreme Court can be found here: Hammock judgment.
Kees van den Berg
Kees van den Berg was an inspector at Delta Lloyd for a number of years. He has been an independent insurance adviser since 1988. Insurance on the internet has grown rapidly, but consumers and entrepreneurs often miss human contact. Depremie Comparison.nl has therefore remained an ordinary “old-fashioned” insurance office. With the personal service of the past and the digital technology of today.