If an item that I borrowed from friend which still works but they claim it is broken, do I have to pay money instead of just replacing it?

I borrowed a pump from a friend and returned it in same working condition. However, my “friend” claimed it was broken. Since I wanted to maintain the friendship Ioffered to buy a new one. Now my friend says that they already got a new one and want money from me to reminburse them for the cost. I told them no, that I would buy them a new one not pay them money. Do I have to pay them? The pump was still working when returned it. I’m suprised this even began an issue with friend. What are my legal rights?

Asked on July 28, 2012 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you did break the item either deliberately or through negligence (unreasonable carelessness), you could be held liable for its cost. While your friend could let you buy him a new one instead of paying him the value, he is legally entitled--again, IF you broke the item deliberately or negligently--to its then-current monetary value.

If you refuse to pay your friend, he could try suing you. If he can show in court, by a preponderence of  the evidence (more likely than not) that you did wrongfully break the item, he could recover the item's value from you. If he doesn't sue you, or sues you and can't prove his case, you do not have to pay if you choose not to.

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