One must exercise reasonable care to avoid conduct creating a risk of physical harm. Reasons of policy and principle justifying a departure from this duty do not depend on the foreseeability of harm based on specific facts. A lack of foreseeable risk in a specific case may be a basis for a no-breach determination, but such a ruling is not a no-duty determination.
Defendant motorist lost control of his car on a road in an attempt to avoid a trampoline that had been displaced by the wind from an adjoining yard to the surface of the road. Defendant sued the owners of the trampoline for negligence. The district court granted summary judgment, concluding the defendants owed no duty to the motorist under the circumstances and the personal injuries resulting from the crash were not proximately caused by the defendants' alleged negligence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.
Was the negligence of the trampoline owners the proximate cause of defendant’s accident?
The district court clearly considered foreseeability in concluding the defendants owed no duty in this case. When the consideration of foreseeability is removed from the determination of duty, as we now hold it should be, there remains the question of whether a principle or strong policy consideration justifies the exemption of the owners from the duty to exercise reasonable care. We conclude no such principle or policy consideration exempts property owners from a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid the placement of obstructions on a roadway. In fact, we have previously noted the public's interest in ensuring roadways are safe and clear of dangerous obstructions for travelers. While an abutting landowner is not liable with respect to highway hazards over which he has no control, he is under an obligation to use reasonable care to keep his premises in such condition as not to create hazards in the adjoining highway. He must conduct operations on his land in such a manner as not to injure the highway traveler.