If John was on a roof, and below him there were pillows so that if John threw something off the roof it wouldn't break. For fun, John threw some valuable china off the roof onto pillows, knowing they wouldn't break. But while the china was in the air, Rachel purposely came and removed the pillows so the china shattered when it hit the ground. Who would be liable? John or Rachel? I think that neither is liable, because when John threw the object, he did not have the capacity to break it. Rachel is not liable, because she only acted indirectly. Now what if Rick was on the roof, and he threw valuable china off the roof onto pillows so that it wouldn't break, but quickly, while the china was in the air, Rick himself removes the pillows. Would Rick be liable to pay for the cost of the broken china?


A reasonable person in John's position would know that dropping fragile objects of a roof is risky, and that padding is not an assured way to prevent damage. The trajectory could be off, so the plate just misses the pillows, say, or someone could accidentally bump and move them, or the padding might not be enough. As damage is a foreseeable consequence of John's conduct, he would be liable to some degree.

Rachel, knowing that the pillows are present to help avoid damage, knowingly increases the risk of damage by removing them, and so would probably also be liable.

In some jurisdictions they would be jointly liable, in others a court would determine percentages of liability.

As to Rick, he is essentially intentionally destroying the china. He would be fully liable. That he uses a roundabout method would not matter. His legal position is essentially the same as if he had smashed it with a hammer.

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