Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Help Me Howard: Palm frond hits Car
If you pull into a parking lot and a palm frond hits your car, who is responsible: you, the parking lot owner or God? It's a good question, which is why one man, whose car got hit by a falling palm frond, called Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- When you look around South Florida, two things are pretty common: lots of parking lots and lots of palm trees in those parking lots.
Lazaro Hernandez: "I heard a crack."
Lazaro had taken his son for his monthly dental checkup, and as they walked back into the parking lot...
Lazaro Hernandez: "I was turning the corner right over there. As soon as I turn the corner, I hear the cracking, see the palm tree hit the car."
Unfortunately for him, a palm frond hit his car.
Lazaro Hernandez: "The branch pretty much covered the whole right side of the vehicle, from front to the back."
Lazaro's first thought: they were pretty lucky.
Lazaro Hernandez: "My main concern was, thank God 15 seconds later my son wasn't there, 'cause it would have hit my son."
Then, he looked at his car and saw some damage.
Lazaro Hernandez: "You can see scratches from here all the way to here and then, you've got chips off there and the back of the trunk right here."
The scratches didn't look bad. This estimate to repair it did.
Lazaro Hernandez: "So I took it to the Mercedes-Benz dealer, and the estimate came out to $1,044."
Lazaro then asked the owner of the office complex to pay for the damage. They quickly turned it over to their insurance company, who quickly turned Lazaro down.
Lazaro Hernandez: "I got a letter by mail, stating that they're not going to pay the damages due to a law called 'The Act of God law.'"
That bothered Lazaro, but what irritated him: driving by the property every day and seeing more fronds ready to fall and branches dropping out of other trees.
Lazaro Hernandez: "It tells me that they are not really taking care of the situation."
In fact, when Lazaro showed us where he parked the day his car got hit, all you had to do was look up and see another frond ready to drop on another car, or a person getting out of their car.
Lazaro Hernandez: "What I am concerned is, someone is going to get hurt."
Which brings up Lazaro's question: can someone say it's Mother Nature's fault and not our fault if falling branches and fronds damage your property?
Howard Finkelstein: "A property owner has a duty to maintain the premises. If they fail to and there is damage, they have to pay. However, if it's a normal shedding like a palm frond, they are not responsible. And that's what many owners and insurance companies use when they deny to pay."
When we talked to the property management group, they told us, 'We have settled with Mr. Lazaro and have no further comments.' I said, 'So you are saying, don't bother to ask any questions about the maintenance on the property?' I was told, 'That's right.'
Give them credit. They took care of Lazaro's damage. He was lucky.
Howard Finkelstein: "If this happens to you, the best way to find out if they are maintaining the property is to see if they have a landscaping service, and how often they come by. But in most cases, if a tree damages your car in a parking lot, it's going to be tough to win."
Lazaro won, but his lips were sealed. To get the check, the property management company made him sign an agreement that he couldn't tell us how happy he was that they had done the right thing.
Patrick Fraser: "I will go out on a limb and say that he was happy that they paid for the damage. And I am going to go further out on a limb and guess that they will ask their lawn guy to pay attention to those palm fronds."
Issues hanging around left you in legal limbo? Like us to drop in? Call us. We will scratch the surface and make a dent in your dilemma. In a good way, of course.