Simon Says: Who should be liable for an unidentified falling object?

This is the thirty-fourth in a weekly series of legal advice provided in a short and entertaining story format.


每周轻松有趣法律常識故事系列 - 第34篇



Keywords: Unidentified infringer, Tort, Strict Liability 





Who should be liable for an unidentified falling object?




One fine evening, Jack was walking his Samoyed in the streets of Beijing. He heard a noise above and stopped to look up. It seemed to be a couple having a fight. Suddenly, down came a beer bottle and Jack got hit in the head.




The poor man fainted due to the trauma, and was found half an hour later lying on the road. He was then rushed to the hospital and there he lay, in a coma, for six months.




Poor Jack had no recollection of what happened, and his wife explained to him that he had been hit by a beer bottle. He was furious as he suddenly had a million dollar bill to deal with, and found that he had already been fired from his company.




With no job and no money, Jack decided to seek help from the police, to find out who threw the bottle and demand a compensation. However, there was no CCTV in that alley, and the police were unable to determine who actually threw the bottle. They could only deduce that it would be the people living in the 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th floor as they had windows facing the alley, and things thrown out from the 1st and 2nd floor did not have enough height to give Jack a skull fracture.




As Jack remembered, it was a couple quarreling, so the single guys on the 5th floor were out of the question. This still left three owners in suspect. What could Jack do?



 Simon Says - Episode 34: Who should be liable for an unidentified falling object?


Prof Simon Says:



Jack's loss should be compensated by those occupiers or owners on the 3rd Floor, 4th Floor and 6th Floor jointly while those on 5th Floor are not liable for compensation as they are not a couple. This a classic case where the damage is caused by an object thrown or falling from a building but the infringer could not be identified. Under China’s Tort Liability Law, unless the infringer is identified, all owners or occupiers shall be responsible for the victims and should compensate the victims jointly save and except for those can prove the contrary. In this case, unless such three parties could prove that they were not at home at that time, all three parties have to compensate for Jack’s medical fees.




Tort Liability Law of the People's Republic of China


Article 87 Where any damage is caused by an object thrown or falling from a building and where it is difficult to identify the infringer, all users of the building shall pay compensation the victim unless he can prove that he was not the infringer.




第八十七条 从建筑物中抛掷物品或者从建筑物上坠落的物品造成他人损害,难以确定具体侵权人的,除能够证明自己不是侵权人的外,由可能加害的建筑物使用人给予补偿。



For more about this or to contact Professor Simon Choi at, +86 13823677853 or by WeChat: simonhkchoi. 


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Simon Choi

About the Author: Professor Simon Choi

Prof Simon Choi, solicitor and linguist, is an international lawyer, qualified to practise law in England & Wales and in Hong Kong, China. Simon graduated from law schools of the Peking University, the University of London and the University of Hong Kong respectively, with an in-depth knowledge of Chinese laws and common laws and with more than 20 years experience in China practice and international trade, investment, finance, merger & acquisition. He is an adjunct professor of laws at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. Simon is the founding partner of Acme Ardent and can be reached at or +86 13823677853.


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21 Oct 2017

By Simon Choi

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