Car damage on property while gone

My friend parked her car in my garage while we went on a trip. My niece was at the house part of the time while we were gone. My friend found scratches on the car and believes it happened in my garage. My niece says nothing happened to the card while we were gone. Who’s liable?

Asked on May 12, 2016 under Accident Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Simply having his vehicle in your garage doesn't make you liable: you, or someone under your control, like a family member, must have caused the scratches, because you'd only be liable if at fault.
However, IF the garage was locked and only you and you family--i.e. your neice--had access to it, he can essentially prove that your family or you caused the damage: if only they could have accessed the car and damaged it, logically, they must have (they, or someone they let in, like if your neice had friends or a boyfriend visit her at your house). In law, this is called "res ipsa loquitor," and it means that if an item is in someone's control and there was no other way, except for that person or people under his/her control, for it have been damaged, the law presumes that the person(s) with control caused the damage. So in this case, if only your neice and friends, etc. of hers could have reached and damaged the car, then you would most likely be liable.

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