Imagine you are out for an early morning jog. Someone has their sprinklers on, so you cross the street to avoid them. Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning sprinkler head that you didn't know about. It's dark so you couldn't see it, and since the sprinkler wasn't working and wasn't spraying water, you had no other way to know it was there.

As a result you step on it, it breaks, and begins gushing out water. Naturally you leave a note claiming responsibility for the accident (it's early in the morning and the home owner does not appear to be awake, so you don't want to knock).

What would be your legal liability in such an instance?

  • As a general rule, on this site we don't give legal advice on specific situations. So we can't answer your question about your liability in this particular case. See law.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/221/…. You could instead ask a more general question about when people have liability for property damage they cause. Sep 9, 2019 at 16:51
  • @NateEldredge I'm certainly not looking for legal advice, and it seems to me that "Is there legal liability in X circumstances?" is the most basic of legal questions. Then again, I'm not a legal expert so perhaps your point would be more obvious to me if I had more experience on this site.
    – conman
    Sep 9, 2019 at 17:05
  • @NateEldredge better?
    – conman
    Sep 9, 2019 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


In general, you are liable for any damage that you cause, even by accident (and irrespective of whether the person whose property you damaged is civil vs. hostile), if the damage was caused by your negligence. That could include the sprinkler, plus the wasted water. The question that the court would ask is whether a person using ordinary caution would have avoided the sprinkler head, and the main consideration would be, how visible was the head?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .