Friday, April 15, 2011

Can Owners of Ditches, Canals, and Pipelines Be Liable for Damage?

Utah Code section 73-1-8 law imposes an affirmative duty on “[t]he owner of any ditch, canal, flume or other watercourse [to] maintain it to prevent waste of water or damage to the property of others.” An easement holder violates this statutory mandate only if he is found to be negligent by failing to follow the standard of care and damage results to the property of another. The law establishes that this standard of care is determined by the reasonable care taken by a person who is “of some experience and skill in the management of water, who would have an awareness of the various hazards in the failure to properly control them and would therefore exercise the degree of foresight and precaution which people of such experience and skill would observe to avoid injury or damage to others and their property.” This statutory duty and standard of care have been applied to pipelines, such that owners of pipelines used to convey water are required to exercise reasonable care in the construction and maintenance of the pipeline. A pipeline owner can be found negligent if the pipeline is not properly constructed or maintained, causing the pipeline to leak and cause damage to another’s property.

In sum, the owner of a ditch, canal, or pipeline can be held liable for flooding or other damage to property if the owner is negligent in constructing or maintaining the ditch, canal, or pipeline.

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