Monday, June 30, 2008
This may not be the best Limerick I've ever composed, but I think it among my most useful. It pretty much sums up the case and states the relevant exception to the rule that parties are generally not liable for the torts of their independent contractors. The Limerick leaves out the court's interesting discussion of another exception -- hiring an incompetent -- but that's dictum.
For those of you unfamiliar with the case, it involved the demolition of a building in a built-up area in Paterson, New Jersey. The crane operator apparently swung his wrecking ball in the wrong direction, knocking the building to be demolished onto an adjacent building and causing damage. When asked for a explanation of his wrecking technique, the crane operator said, "I goofed." The liability of the City of Paterson, which hired Toti, turned on whether demolition in a built-up area constituted nuisance per se, that is an "inherently dangerous activity," a question that need to be determined on remand.
Majestic Realty Assoc. v. Toti Contracting Co.
"I goofed," said the crane operator
And unwitting tort perpetrator.
The city must pay
If it's nuisance per se
To wreck first and ask questions later.