I. Basis for Imposing Liability for Non-contractual Damages
In accordance with Clause 1 and 3, Article 584, Civil Code 2015, the liability for non-contractual damages shall arise based on the following grounds:
“1. Anyone who engages in conduct that infringes upon the life, health, dignity, reputation, honor, property, rights, or legitimate interests of others, resulting in damages, must provide compensation, except as otherwise provided by this Code or other relevant laws.
3. In cases where property causes damages, the owner or possessor of the property shall be liable for compensating the damages, except in cases where the damages occur as specified in Article 2 of this Code.”
However, according to Clause 2, Article 584 of the Civil Code, the person causing the damage shall not be liable for non-contractual damages if there is an event of force majeure when performing the act.
II. Who is Responsible?
The situation of a rented room fire gives rise to liability for non-contractual damages involving damaged property, which may include the building itself, its contents, and potentially harm to individuals, as well as damage to neighboring properties. Depending on factors such as the fault of the party performing the action, the causal relationship between the action and its consequences, and whether the action is in violation of the law, we can distinguish the following cases:
Case 1: The consequences result entirely from the fault of the tenant
In cases where the tenant’s actions lead to the fire, whether intentional (such as deliberately setting the house on fire) or unintentional (such as accidentally causing a fire by dropping a lit cigarette onto flammable materials), the tenant is fully responsible for compensating the damages to the landlord and neighboring properties (if applicable).
Case 2: The consequences result entirely from the fault of the landlord
If the house fire occurs due to the fault of the landlord, for example, if they did not meet fire safety standards during construction, then the landlord is solely responsible for their actions and cannot demand compensation from the tenant. In cases where the fire causes harm to the tenant and other neighboring properties, the landlord is liable for compensation.
Case 3: The consequences result from the faults of both the tenant and the landlord
In this scenario, both the tenant and the landlord are responsible for compensating the damage that corresponds to their respective faults. In cases where it is impossible to determine the degree of fault for each party, Article 587 of the Civil Code of 2015 applies: “… if the degree of fault cannot be determined, they must compensate for the damage equally.”
III. Cases Where the Person Causing Damage is Not Liable
Based on Clause 2, Article 584, Civil Code 2015:
“2. The person causing damage shall not be liable to compensate for the damage in cases where the damage arises from an event of force majeure or is entirely the fault of the injured party, except in cases of other agreements or different legal provisions.”
Accordingly, there are two situations in which the person causing damage is not liable:
– When the consequences result from an event of force majeure.
– When the person causing damage is at fault, but the fault lies entirely with the injured party.
Based on Clause 1, Article 156, Civil Code 2015, a force majeure event is defined as “an objective event that cannot be foreseen and cannot be overcome despite the application of all necessary measures and capabilities.”
In both of these cases, the person causing damage is not liable for compensation, unless there are other agreements or different legal provisions stipulating otherwise.
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