August 1, 2021

When moving with friends goes wrong

Pmaybe you intend to move this summer and ask friends for a helping hand, to save yourself the intervention of a professional? Warning ! If one of them breaks a leg, going down your couch on the stairs, you will have to reimburse him for his hospital costs.

Indeed, the “move between friends” is based, legally, on a “voluntary assistance agreement”, a real contract uniting the “assisted” – you – to the “assistants” – those who help you.

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Since May 27, 1959, the Court of Cassation has ruled that this convention requires the assisted person to repair the bodily injury suffered by the assistant he called upon. Since December 17, 1996 (n ° 94-21.838), it considers that it imposes on him to guarantee the assistant of the responsibility which this one can incur, if he injures a third party, without having committed any fault (in the case where, for example, the victim is placed behind the truck backing up). But the fact that the assistant commits a fault does not necessarily release the assisted from his responsibility, as the following case shows.

Injured by shock

In September 2011, Pierre W (the first names have been changed) decided to clean his house in Haute-Savoie. He seeks the help of several friends, including Jacques X and Paul Y, 18 years old. When Paul suggests taking a large box of papers down the stairs, he advises him to throw it out the window. Paul yells: « Attention ! », before throwing the 30 kg box from the second floor, but Jacques X, below, does not hear; he is seriously injured by the shock.

Le Gan, Pierre W’s insurer, pays the victim some 185,000 euros. Then he asks Paul Y to reimburse him: he reproaches him for having thrown the box without checking that no one was underneath; he considers that “This fault” totally discharges Pierre from his guarantee obligation.

Paul protested that Peter, “Organizer of work undertaken in its interest”, to him too “Committed a fault”, telling him to throw away the box, without “Accompany this order with safety instructions”. The Nancy Court of Appeal hears it and operates a sharing of responsibilities: 70% for the client, 30% for him.

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The insurance company then maintains, before the Court of Cassation, that “Under a voluntary assistance agreement, the assisted person cannot be held liable for compensation, in the event of a fault committed by the assistant, to the detriment of another assistant”.

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