Monday, December 1, 2008
Help Me Howard: Baby Doll
A child locked in a hot car. It's a scary scenario, and it's happened before but not like this. A South Florida woman says a misunderstanding led firefighters to bust into her car, and, as it turns out, no crime was committed at all. We'll let Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser explain.
WSVN -- When Suellen saw this little doll, she was hooked.
Suellen Ribeiro: "I was in love."
She calls the six pound baby doll, with its piercing blue eyes, Agatha, and speaking of eyes, look closely because Agatha is not real.
Suellen Ribeiro: "My mom has a friend who lives in Boston, and she makes those dolls. My mom gave her friend a picture of me when I was a baby, and she made a doll out of it. That's me when I was a baby."
Suellen was so impressed with the spitting image of herself as a baby, she decided to show Agatha to a friend, but on the way there she had to stop at a store.
Suellen Ribeiro: "I thought, if I get out of the car with the doll, and somebody sees it, they could think that it is a real baby, and they can call the police on me. I hid it under my seat, and I put a pillow on top of it."
She ran into the store, and when she walked out, she was shocked.
Suellen Ribeiro: "My window broken and the doll and the police and the firefighters."
Turns out, a woman watched Suellen leave the doll in the hot car, thought it was a real baby and dialed 911.
Suellen Ribeiro: "They said, 'I'm sorry, we got a call saying some lady had left a baby in the car, and we came and smashed your window, I'm sorry.'"
So was Suellen. Since the cost of replacing the window was $220, and she has a $500 deductible, she was left holding the tab.
Suellen Ribeiro: "I'm a full-time student, and I have a part-time job, so sometimes I don't even make $220 a week."
Suellen is upset with the woman who dialed 911 but thinks since the fire department broke her window, they should pay to replace it.
Suellen Ribeiro: "It's OK they broke the window, but since they broke it, and it was their mistake, they should pay for it."
But they thought they were saving a real baby's life, so who has to pay, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Fire rescue is only responsible for any damage they cause if they are negligent. In this case, they did what they should have done, break the window to get to what they thought was an infant. Legally, they do not have to pay for the window. They can, but they don't have to."
When we contacted Pompano Beach Fire Rescue, a spokesperson told us: "We responded to what appeared to be a baby under a pillow, and we don't hesitate. If it had turned out to be a real baby, and we waited for five minutes, it could have died. They also told us, 'We don't reimburse in all cases,' but they did the nice thing and sent Suellen $220 to replace her broken window.
Howard Finkelstein: "Not only could fire rescue break a window if they think they are rescuing a child, you could do the same thing. The spirit of the law both encourages and protects you if you think you are saving a life, and as long as you act reasonably, you are not responsible for any damage."
Suellen's got her check and has learned a real life lesson from her life-like baby doll.
Suellen Ribeiro: "I don't take the baby with me. It stays at home."
And of course any time you see something suspicious, it's always best to dial 911. Never take a chance. In this case, everyone did the right thing. It was just a one in a million false alarm.
A bundle of joy breaking you up? Don't cry. Be a doll and give us a call. We won't baby you, but we will offer life-like legal help.
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