Recently, heavy rains have occurred frequently, and meteorological departments and other relevant departments have issued early warning information in time to remind the public to take preventive measures. Who will be responsible for the property loss? How to defend rights? Three court cases belong to rain-related disputes, and the judge interpreted the case to provide useful guidance for the prevention of disputes and the resolution of contradictions.
The sudden rainstorm caused the courier to be soaked. Should the courier company pay for it? The rain rushed into the living room and bedroom, and the furniture was damaged. Should the property be held responsible? Is it legal for the insurance company to refuse to compensate for the car stall caused by water accumulation on the road?
Recently, extreme weather such as heavy rain has occurred frequently, and people are faced with rain-related disputes. How should we protect our rights? Who will be responsible for the property losses? A few days ago, the Fangshan District People’s Court of Beijing issued a set of typical cases and interpreted them in order to provide useful guidance for effectively preventing disputes and resolving contradictions in time.
Who will pay for the damage caused by the rainstorm?
In June, 2022, Zhao mailed ten mobile phones through a courier company. When the mobile phones were not delivered after they were delivered to the destination, the rainstorm caused the express storage point to be flooded, and the mobile phones sent by Zhao were damaged by water immersion. Due to unsuccessful negotiations on compensation, Zhao appealed to the court and asked the courier company to compensate for the loss of the mobile phone.
The courier company argued that the rainstorm caused the drainage system around the warehouse to be blocked, and the water was poured backwards. A large number of couriers were flooded, including the mobile phone mailed by Zhao. Therefore, Zhao’s loss was caused by an irresistible natural disaster. The company did not have any fault in the mail transportation process and should not be liable for compensation.
The court held through trial that the so-called force majeure refers to the unforeseeable, unavoidable and insurmountable objective situation. In this case, the courier company did not provide evidence to prove that the rain was an unexpected natural disaster such as rainstorm or flood, and the courier company could completely foresee and avoid the damage of the courier. Therefore, it claimed that the reason for the damage of Zhao’s mobile phone was force majeure and had no factual and legal basis. Accordingly, the court ruled that the courier company compensated Zhao for the loss of the mobile phone.
Article 832 of China’s Civil Code stipulates that the carrier shall be liable for the damage or loss of the goods during transportation. However, the carrier shall not be liable for compensation if it proves that the damage or loss of the goods is caused by force majeure, the natural nature or reasonable wear and tear of the goods themselves and the fault of the shipper or consignee.
In this case, before the rainstorm, the relevant government departments have issued an early warning to remind the public to take preventive measures. The rainstorm belongs to the weather conditions that the courier company can meet. For special weather, the courier company should prepare emergency equipment in advance to avoid the courier being soaked. Therefore, the courier company cannot claim exemption on the grounds of force majeure, and should be liable for Zhao’s losses.
How to protect the rights when the house furniture runs away?
In March 2017, Wang bought a set of commercial housing. After checking in, every time it rains or storms, Wang’s master bedroom balcony will run water. In July, 2022, after a night of heavy rain, the flood rushed directly into the master bedroom and living room, soaking the clavichord and cashmere carpet in the house. After this large-scale running water, the property company where the community is located began to thoroughly investigate the reasons for running water, and finally found that the rainwater drainage pipe built in the balcony was blocked, which led to running water. Since then, the property company has installed a drain on the balcony of the house. When it rains again, there is no water running. However, due to many previous runs, Wang has suffered property losses. The two sides failed to reach an agreement on compensation, so Wang sued the property company to the court.
The property company argued that the problem of poor balcony drainage pipes was a long-term accumulation, and Wang did not prove that the property company failed to fulfill its management responsibilities and caused water leakage. In addition, the property management company believes that the drainage pipeline here belongs to a common part. Although it is within its management scope, it has passed the inspection and acceptance, and after a large-scale water run, a drain has been installed on the balcony, so it has fulfilled its maintenance and management obligations and should not be held responsible.
As a service provider, the property management company should have the obligation to repair and maintain the public drainage pipeline belonging to the floor drain with water leakage and reflux in the community. After trial, the court held that the house where Wang lived had run water many times, and the property company should promptly investigate the reasons after the first discovery of water leakage to avoid similar situations. Adding a drain on the balcony of the house involved can solve the drainage problem in extreme weather, which can completely avoid the loss in this case. Therefore, the court ruled that the property company failed to fulfill its obligations and should compensate Wang for the loss.
Who is responsible for the bad car caused by flooding?
In August, 2020, a sudden rainstorm caused serious water accumulation on a certain road surface. Liu’s vehicle turned off during driving, and then he reported the case to the insurance company, and the vehicle was towed to the repair shop for damage assessment and maintenance. Since then, the insurance company refused to claim compensation on the grounds that "the engine damage of the insurance vehicle due to flooding or wading is an exemption clause", and Liu appealed to the court. The insurance company argued that the damage to the vehicle was not caused by heavy rain, but by the driver wading. According to the insurance clauses, the insurance company has the right to refuse to pay for the losses suffered by the insured vehicle due to flooding or wading.
According to Article 496 of China’s Civil Code, standard clauses are clauses drawn up by the parties in advance for repeated use, and they were not consulted with each other when concluding a contract. Where a contract is concluded by standard terms, the party providing the standard terms shall follow the principle of fairness to determine the rights and obligations between the parties, and take reasonable measures to remind the other party of the terms that are of great interest to the other party, such as exempting or reducing its responsibilities, and explain the terms according to the other party’s requirements. If the party providing the standard terms fails to perform the obligation of prompting or explaining, so that the other party fails to pay attention to or understand the terms that have a significant interest in it, the other party may claim that the terms will not become the content of the contract.
The court held that although the notice column of the motor vehicle insurance policy was printed with "Please read the insurance clauses in detail, especially the exemption of liability and the obligations of the insured and the insured", the font, font size and color of the above-mentioned format clauses were not different from other clauses, and the insurance company failed to provide evidence to prove that it made a prompt on other insurance documents that was enough to attract the attention of the insured, so the exemption clauses involved in the case were not legally binding on Liu. During the insurance period, the insurance company shall be responsible for compensation for the loss of the insured vehicle caused by lightning, rainstorm, flood and other reasons during the use of the insured vehicle by the insured or its permitted legal driver.
"This heavy rainfall has caused many vehicles to be soaked or washed away. For car owners who are insured for car damage insurance, insurance claims can minimize losses." The judge suggested that when signing an insurance contract, we should pay attention to the relevant exemptions, especially the clauses that are unfavorable to ourselves. The majority of car owners should contact the insurance company to report the damage as soon as possible after the vehicle is soaked or washed away. (Liang Jianghuan)