Question: [Wednesday, 23rd Iyar 5781]
We have a number of extra tiles on our porch which are stacked by the edge of the gate which surrounds our porch. It’s been there for months without moving. Last night, one of the tiles somehow fell with the wind and smashed the windshield of our neighbor’s car. Am I responsible for paying for the damages? He already checked with his insurance and they said that they will not cover it [different states have different insurance laws regarding windshield replacements and in our state, it is not covered even though in other states it is fully covered].
It depends on why it fell. If it fell due to a regular wind, then you are absolutely Halachically, and most likely legally, responsible for paying for the damages. If, however, it fell due to an abnormal wind, then you are exempt. The definition of an abnormal wind in this regard is any wind that is not the common weather condition of the area, even though it does come on occasion. [The above is only from a pure Halachic standpoint, however legally you may be held liable even by an abnormal wind depending on the state law that governs your residency, and you should therefore speak with a lawyer regarding this aspect. Likewise, it goes without saying that even though one is not liable for an abnormal wind carrying his items off his property, one should be careful to prevent as much as possible these things from happening, especially being that they can seriously hurt somebody below, and therefore certainly you should not leave anything that can fall and cause damage by the edge of your roof or porch.]
Explanation: One of the four primary categories of damages is the category of “fire,” in which case if one’s fire left his property and burned someone else’s property he is liable being that he should’ve guarded it. Included in the subcategory of this category of damage is any damage that is caused by an item that one owns, even if it is a result of the wind. However, this only applies by a regular wind which caused one’s items to fly and cause damage, if however, an abnormally strong wind came along and blew it away then one is not liable for the damage.
Sources: See Michaber C.M. 418:1 and 9; Rambam 14:16; Bava Kama 3b; 6a; Biur Hagoleh ibid; Smeh 418:9 in name of Maggid Mishneh; Shach C.M. 1:2; Shvus Yaakov 1:136; Ketzos Hachosehn 1:2; Pischeiy Teshuvah 1:2; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Eish Vol. 2 pp. 235-241