If someone steals your equipment from the construction site and uses it to cause damage, are you liable?

In Ohio, a construction attorney would say probably not.  At least that was the outcome for the construction company whose bulldozer was stolen and then rammed into someone’s home in Lagowski v. Shelly and Sands, Inc., 2015-Ohio-2685 (7th Dist. 2015).

In the Lagowski case, a construction project was underway and part of the equipment kept on the site was a Caterpillar D-6 bulldozer.  While the contractor who owned the bulldozer was away from the site, an unidentified person managed to start the bulldozer and ended up driving the bulldozer into a neighboring home.  The homeowner then sued the contractor for negligence.  The homeowner contended the contractor was negligent by not securing the bulldozer with a lock.

Ohio’s Seventh District Court of Appeals found that normally “the theft…is an intervening superseding cause breaking the chain of proximate cause in a negligence case.”  This essentially means that even if the contractor had been negligent in not securing the bulldozer, the unidentified person’s theft of the bulldozer cut off the contractor’s liability.  As a result, when the equipment was stolen and used to cause damage, the contractor was not liable.

Schwandner Law Firm LLC is a construction law firm with experience in construction negligence claims.  The firm can provide an experienced construction lawyer to represent companies and individuals.