The Twelve Days of Tort Law: Non-Delegable Winter Duties

On the third day of Christmas, a marshal served on me! A suit for breach of non-delegable duty!

Welcome to part three of The Law Office of Christopher J. Mutchler’s festive twelve part pseudo-satirical series on Connecticut personal injury law: non-delegable winter duties. In this posting, you will learn what a non-delegable duty is, how such a duty can be breached, and why I felt the topic to be worthy of throwing off the melody of my opening line.

Understanding what a “non-delegableduty” is requires you to first understand what a “duty” is. Apart from my dry sense of humor, a recurring theme that I’m sure you’ve noticed in this series is one person owing a duty to another. This is because “duty,” or “duty of care” is the basis of most of personal injury law. A “duty” is an obligation, and the “duty of care” is just another word for the idea that we are obligated to act a certain way around others. Some duties can be delegated, or assigned contractually to other people. The duty of care cannot.

When a person fails to act as he or she should have, that person is said to have “breached” the duty of care. A shop owner who sees a spill but doesn’t bother to clean it up has breached the duty of care he owes to his customers. A driver who is flying down the fast lane while texting has breached the duty of care he owes to everyone else on the highway. A homeowner who allows his/her sidewalk to freeze over and does nothing about it has breached the duty of care he/she owes to passersby.

Easy, right? Great. Now for the last point. Why, pray tell, is this non-delegable duty business so important to discuss that I would do something so drastic as throwing off the melody of my opening line by a couple of syllables? Because it’s winter time, and ensuring that your sidewalk has been adequately cleared is a non-delegable duty. That means even if you paid Little Timmy from down the street $50.00 to shovel your sidewalk by hand knowing full well it would have cost less to have it done professionally, you(and NOTTimmy) can still be on the hook for damages if someone gets hurt on your icy walkway. You may still be able to recover from the little weasel based on indemnity, but that’s a whole other ball of snow (ha ha).

The takeaway from all of this is simple: if you don’t want to get sued, its probably best to brave the cold and make sure your sidewalk is taken care of, even if you paid someone else to do it.

I hope you enjoyed Part Two of the series. You can find the others at the link below:

Life’s not always fair,  but it may be fairer than you think it is. If you’re in a bind, The Law Office of Christopher J. Mutchler may be able to help!

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