My friend recently rolled and totaled her SUV while swerving to avoid a couch sitting out on the freeway. In a discussion, a few of my friends suggested that the police should find the person who owns the couch, and that person should be responsible financially for any damages. I countered that there’s way too many unknowns to pin the responsibility solely on the owner of the couch. They really dug their heels in and responded that the owner of any furniture that falls off a vehicle and causes an accident is solely and entirely responsible for the accident.
We’re pretty divided on this, so any insight would be much appreciated.
I was recently driving next to a pickup truck on the freeway. One end of the familiar silhouette of an IKEA Ektorp couch was resting on top of the truck’s cab. As the freeway grade suddenly changed, the upper end of the couch began to rise up. Sensing a Final Destination moment, I passed as fast as possible. The couch then took glorious flight, soaring like a Rubenesque upholstered angel, flipping a few times in the air, and then skidding to a stop on the side of the freeway on all four legs. The point of this story is this: People make fun of IKEA, but that couch handled a 75-mile-per-hour gymnastics routine with more grace and less damage than Kerri Strug. That’s quality.
Unlike in my anecdote, your friend’s freeway couch caused some major damage, both by totaling an SUV and causing a schism in your friendship circle. It’s a good thing your friends are wrong. Let’s walk through the possibilities until we get to the responsible party. I don’t know where you are, so we’ll look at a mish-mash of state laws.
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Illustration by Sam Woolley.