Is the paid parking lot (bailment relationship established) responsible to pay damages of my car that flooded (Sandy)? 9 Answers as of April 15, 2013

I had asked this question previously but forgot to add an important point... that there was a bailment relationship established as I give them my car keys to park. My car is flooded from Sandy and I do not have comprehensive insurance. My only recourse is the parking lot. It was parked in an outdoor parking lot in a flood evacuation zone. My contract with the parking lot did NOT include a specific limitation of liability from flood damage. The only specific limitation of liability was towards lost profits and personal property in the car. There is a specific limitation of liability of up to $25,000 for theft, fire or explosion with the option to buy into more $ coverage. No one called me to tell me to take the car out and the gates were locked before the storm surge came that flooded everything. Some cars in the lot were proactively lifted up by the valet and avoided the damage (not mine). I am current with my payments to the lot. Is the parking lot responsible for damages to my flooded car? They have blurted out the Act of God defense in my initial conversation with them but does it even work in this situation (they could have bought flood insurance or build flood barricades, especially since the lot was also in an evacuation zone going back to Irene from 2011 but they did nothing at all in 2012).

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Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
Your question came up in California, but since the laws vary from state to state, you will want to post your question in the state where your vehicle was at the time it was damaged so that an attorney in that state can answer it.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/15/2013
Lapin Law Offices
Lapin Law Offices | Jeffrey Lapin
I cannot answer your Question as Nebraska, the State you selected when asking your Question, was not affected by Hurricane Sandy. Attorneys can only offer legal advice for cases in States in which they are licensed to practice in or they would be committing the unauthorized practice of law. I am not licensed in any State that was directly effected by Hurricane Sandy. You should re-ask your Question and select whatever State where your car was parked.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 4/15/2013
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
Act of God is a common defense where acts of God (nature as a part of Gods economy) are involved. All of your contract words don't necessarily change the law, and I don't know why they would have to buy insurance to protect your car from an Act of God.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 11/29/2012
Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
I hate to give you a "maybe", but that's all I've got. You do have some valid points, in that they knew the storm was coming, had a safe place to move the car to, and in fact did move some of the cars to a safe place. On the other hand, this was an untoward event, which caused billions of dollars of damage, and your car just happened to be a few thousand of those dollars.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 11/29/2012
David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
I answered this question before, and my answer is the same. Forget the fact that they could have bought flood insurance. This is irrelevant. You could have bought comprehensive coverage. There has never been, and never will be, liability based on what insurance you could have bought. Insurance pays if you are liable in Tort based on negligence, strict liability, premises liability, etc. Act of god is absolutely relevant here. They did not cause the storm, and their negligence did not contribute to the storm. It is an act of God that they could not stop. The question is, would any reasonable person in their position have done more to protect the cars in their lot from the storm? The answer to this question depends on whether the cars they did save was a result of extraordinary efforts and there was no way to save them all given the notice of the storm, whether the owner instructed his employees to move all the cars, and they missed yours because they were lazy, whether their locking the lot unreasonably prevented you from moving your car, whether you were negligent in failing to move your own car (for example, why is it that they who have many cars to move are responsible, when you who have only one to move are not responsible?) . These are a few questions . There are probably more. The question likely can only be answered if you file a lawsuit and get a verdict, either in your favor or theirs. I cannot say absolutely that they are liable, nor can I say that they are not. I do not know all the facts, and even if I did, it is possible that all I could say is it is a tossup - only a jury can say for sure (there is a reason cases go to trial - reasonable parties disagree as to who is at fault based on the law). The fact that they are a bailee (which I knew from your original question) does help as it means they have a higher duty to protect your car. However, it does not make them an insurer of your car. Call some lawyers and see if you can find one to take your case. If many cars were lost, perhaps all of you could get together and find an attorney for a multiple Plaintiff case (this will be more attractive for an attorney to work on a contingency basis).
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 11/29/2012
    Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
    If you read up on bailments, then you should know that they are NOT responsible for acts of nature. They are not guarantors; they are only responsible for being reasonable. Now, if they guaranteed to protect your car from storms, then you would have something.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/29/2012
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    I would make a written claim for damages and request that they tender the matter to their insurance carrier. You have nothing to lose by making the claim. You can always sue later if they deny the claim. I do not see how an act of God defense would apply if such language was not part of your contract. Even if it was, they selectively chose some vehicles to save, but not yours. So make the claim.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/29/2012
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    As I believe I previously answered the question, an Act of God is only a valid defense to your claim if they had no advance knowledge that the storm was coming, and if they watched a single TV or listened to a single radio, they knew well that Sandy was on the way. I would ask the parking lot management for the name of their insurance company (they are required to give you that by Section 627.4137, F.S.) and then I would discuss this with the insurance adjuster assigned to the claim. If they were negligent (i.e., not called and asked you to remove your car from their lot) then I believe their liability insurance should reimburse you for the loss. Their actions in lifting some of the cars up by the valet certainly could be used against them as proof that they were aware there was an impending flooding, so they should have notified the owners of the cars they did not "lifted up by the valet" to come and remove their cars and move them to safer grounds. You are right that there is a bailment relationship established, but the first thing you need to do is start a dialog with the insurance adjuster, not the owner of the lot.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 11/29/2012
    Richard E. Damon, PC | Richard E. Damon
    Are you in California?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 4/15/2013
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