Do I have the right to inspect a claim for damage to property?

If I am not given that right can I deny the claim? A neighboring business submitted a claim for damages to their irrigation line. Construction work was being preformed next to their parking lot. However they did not notify us of the damage or allow us to inspect it. They called in a landscape company on the same day it was apparently damaged to have it fixed and then sent us the bill a week and a half later.

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You only have to pay if there is a legal determination of fault or responsibility--i.e. if they sue you and win. They can certainly send you a bill, and you might decide to pay it rather than risk litigation, which can be costly even if you successfully defend yourself, but that's your choice. You can't be forced to pay unless they prove your liabilty, or finiancial responsibilty growing oout of fault (such as negligence or carelessness on the part of you, your employees, or contractors under your control) in court.

If they do try to sue you, they'd need to provide evidence of fault; you could provide any contrary evidence, or attack their evidence; and the fact that they didn't allow you to inspect the damaged area could certainly hurt them. It could lead to a "spoliation inference," which is when a judge concludes that the evidence which was denied to you would have been favorable to you, and instructs the jury to infer that had you been able to inspect the line, for example, the inspection would have shown no evidence of your fault. That would not guaranty you win, not if they have other strong evidence, but clearly would strengthen your case greatly.


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