Q: I watched the weather report on TV. He said it would be cool, slight breeze, with absolutely no mention or indication of rain. I dressed and planned accordingly, wound up getting drenched by a lot of rain, got a bad cold, had to be off my feet for a week, and lost work time. Is there a claim that can be made for that false weather report?
-M.C., Huntington Beach
A: Sounds like your claim would be for personal injury. The elements of such a claim are that the weather person had a duty to you to act in a careful manner (often referred to as a “reasonable person” standard). In addition, he or she breached that duty which proximately caused your damages. Applying this to the weather report: Is what you heard the only weather report that day that was inaccurate? Can you prove the weather person acted in a negligent manner? What information did he or she have on which the report was based? Then, what caused your cold? Being wet? Not going inside quickly enough? Is it flu season and a lot of folks are getting ill? Bottom line, I think you face a very challenging task suing the weather person. I have read of some cases, including those that involve pursuit of the government for providing faulty information relied upon for the weather report. But suing the government typically can be very challenging as well.
Q: There was a fierce wind which actually blew part of our roof off. It rammed into the backyard of our neighbor and caused serious damage to their landscape. Our neighbor says he expects us to pay for it. Since we don’t control the wind, how could it be on us?
-Y.K., Rancho Palos Verdes
A: Force majeure is a legal concept that frees a party from liability when an extraordinary event or circumstance occurs that is beyond his or her control. Examples include a war, crime or events described as an act of God. Wind of the kind you describe may well be treated as an act of God (figuratively let alone legally). This insulates you from liability because it is deemed beyond your control, unless it can be shown that you have some responsibility for what occurred by virtue of not having been careful or having contributed to the situation. Thus, if you knew, or had reason to know your roof was shoddy, and did not repair it, or let it continue to deteriorate, the fact the wind was very strong may not shield you from at least some level of accountability for the harm that occurred.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, presents a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to him at email@example.com.