Current legal limitations on liability for forecasting and warning are not limited to the uncertainties of weather predictions. The limitations also reflect the lack of a recognized legal duty between the person harmed and the party who is claimed to have provided an inaccurate forecast or who is claimed to have failed to warn of impending severe weather. Governmental agency liability is separately limited by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. These limitations of lack of duty and sovereign immunity will likely remain as protection against liability; however, if a forecasting agency or weather station provides assurances of accuracy or assumes a duty to warn, might the nature of the relationship between the forecaster and the person heeding the forecast change in the eyes of the law? In at least on recent case, a company was held liable under contract law for failure to provide forecasts and warnings as specified in its agreement with a customer. Could this type of duty be recognized in other circumstances to create a liability for inaccurate forecasts or failure to warn?
This presentation will briefly discuss the current state of the law related to weather forecasts and warning systems, discussing the relevant cases and legal doctrine for a non-lawyer audience. The presentation will then turn to the ways in which the law has tried to address technological progress such as computer and Internet advancements. The courts and the legislatures have attempted to either fit new harms into current legal doctrine or to create new doctrine reflecting the changes in society resulting from the new technologies. The presentation will then consider whether this translation of legal principles in relation to new technologies might result in newly recognized liability for forecasting and warning systems.
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