Is a Business Responsible For Damage? - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Is a Business Responsible For Damage?

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If you take your clothes to a dry cleaner, use a valet to park your car, or take it to a car wash, they have signs and receipts that say they are not responsible if they damage your property. But is that true? It's why one South Florida woman put in a call to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- Helene Harris: "And was a beautiful car, still is a beautiful car."

This is Helene's car and since she has owned it for 10 years, to her it is more than a vehicle.

Helene Harris: "I like my boat. It sails very very well. Everything is good, battery is good, tires good, it's been taken care of."

A nice, 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis with 60,000 miles on it and when it got dirty a few days ago, Helene took it to a car wash.

Helene Harris: "I didn't think anything of it. Sitting there reading a magazine, look up and there comes a car with the whole top flying around."

Now Helene's vinyl top was not in perfect shape and was clearly starting to show its age. But she counters, it was in one piece and looked nice to her. Till it came out of the car wash shredded and flapping like a birds wing in the breeze, an employee walked over to her.

Helene Harris: "He said our blowers are very strong and probably just blew the top away and the water but it's an old car, your insurance will probably cover it."

Helene said her insurance wouldn't cover it and shouldn't have to cover it. That the car was the car wash's responsible...

Helene Harris: "I said you must have insurance, we are not doing anything. Asked him to give me the name of his insurance company, he said no."

The employee said they were not responsible for the tops ripping open. Repeating what a sign at the entrance to the car wash says, that they aren't responsible for everything from antennas to loose molding to damage due to negligence.

Helene Harris: "He said probably it was cracked or whatever and it couldn't take the blower. If you looked and saw something you shouldn't have put it through your machine, that to me is my logic."

The car wash refused to give in and pay. Helene refused to give in and give up.

Helene Harris: "I would like them to make some type of settlement with me. Admit responsibility. Say you know what probably shouldn't have put it through."

Neither side will budge, so let the law decide. Howard, the vinyl top is ten years old and not in perfect shape but it was not shredded when it got to the car wash. So if a car wash damages your vehicle, who is responsible?

Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, it depends. The law calls this abalement and that means when you give your property to a business, they must use reasonable care to protect your property and if it gets damaged, the law presumes they are responsible. But in this case, if they can prove that the top was defective or worn, then they are not responsible at all."

We talked to the owner of the car wash who told us the vinyl top was clearly showing its age and he didn't think he should have to pay the $1,200 to replace it.

However, he's obviously a good honest business owner. He offered to give Helene half, $600 to buy a new vinyl roof.

Howard says that's fair.

Howard Finkelstein: "And the reason I think it's fair is because that top was 10 years old. If you went to court, a judge might rule it was not the car washes fault and Helene gets nothing. So half is better than taking a chance and maybe ending up with zero."

Helene Harris: "My next step is to have it repaired. Replaced."

Helene will take the $600 from the car wash owner to replace the vinyl top to keep her old treasure, looking good.

Helene Harris: "All of you and your team, you helped me. I am happy with what I have."

Patrick Fraser: "Now the car wash, like many businesses, has a sign that says they aren't responsible for almost everything. Howard says, that in most cases, the sign doesn't matter and won't protect the business. Just because they say they aren't responsible doesn't make it so.

Hopes of solving your problem getting washed away? Don't want things to go down the drain? Let us clean things up and leave your future nice and shiny.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)|

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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