Last Monday, the National Weather Service forecast “widespread blowing dust” with gusting winds. The wind that followed, combined with the perfect time of the year — planting season and field preparation is blamed for the dangerous driving conditions and subsequent tragedy.
According to reports, Illinois State Police said that the major contributing factor to the collisions was excessive winds that blew dirt from farm fields across the highway.
Liability related to an series of crashes of this magnitude — and blaming farmers — is a far more complex issue. Some consider it a freak event, while others attribute the crash to farming methods.
Emerson Nafziger, a crop scientist professor at the University of Illinois, spoke to CBS News Chicago saying, “This year has been really unusual. April was drier than normal. Fields that hadn’t had any tillage done to them could easily have been contributing to this.”
When a user posted the question “Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?” to the subreddit r/farming, the resulting debates are multi-faceted.
Some users are blaming farming practices.
While state police cite nearby farm dust as the leading culprit, dust travels as the wind picks it up in the air. While some news sources cite the fields being freshly tilled, there’s no concrete evidence (yet) as to what farming practices were used and whether they were reasonable.
by u/plains203 from discussion Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?
Others say a lawsuit against farmers in the area would fall under a “nuisance lawsuit” category.
Landowners should exercise care when plowing near a highway during a major windstorm. We don’t know yet when the farmer worked his fields; laws also vary by state. Texas A&M shares that landowners should carry liability insurance with sufficient coverage for an incident of this level if they fall liable.
by u/justnick84 from discussion Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?
One user cited lawsuit experience to explain how difficult it would be to place liability on the farmer.
In 2006, during the case Connaway v. Village Farms, a tomato farmer was accused of impacting visibility along a highway, causing a subsequent vehicle collision. It was established that visibility was decreased throughout the area due to high winds, and insufficient evidence was present to provide that the farmer clearing vegetation caused the dust cloud.
by u/TheHungyVulcan from discussion Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?
Still, more blamed the drivers.
Reports indicate that two tractor-trailer rigs and commercial and passenger vehicles were on fire. Due to the fire, the injured were difficult to reach. While a tragedy of this magnitude is uncommon and undeniably heartbreaking, drought, dry seasons, and wind affect much of the country.
Most highway patrols and state transportation departments advise against driving into or through dust storms. If possible, drivers should exit the highway before visibility gets too poor, and wait for the storm to pass.
by u/lukeb15 from discussion Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?
And others speculated that farmers could have waited to work their fields.
Again, this information is likely to come out if lawsuits are filed. But, at this time, there is no information on whether the farmer had worked their fields a week, month, or days before the storm.
by u/Critical-Carpet-3840 from discussion Can a Farmer Be Held Liable if Blowing Dust From Their Field Causes a Highway Accident?