What to do if my roommate is threatening to take myself and 2 other roommates to small claims court for negligence resulting in the theft of his property?

We all were moving out of our house together and he left some items in a main area we needed to clean. We placed a number of items outside, including his property, while we cleaned the floors and did the inspection with our landlord. Two of his instruments were stolen before the items were placed back inside. He claims the instruments were worth $1500 and upon a google search that was their value at the time of purchase. He says we are responsible for their theft because we knew their value and were negligent in preventing their theft by placing them outside. Are we at fault? What risk do we face?

Asked on August 16, 2015 under Business Law, Arizona


Anne Brady / Law Office of Anne Brady

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The person who stole the items is the person most responsible but you could also be found to be liable.  The question would become: What was your duty of care to your roommate, who entrusted you with his items?  It could be argued you had a duty to act with reasonable care with respect to his possessions he entrusted to you.  It is pretty careless to leave items outside the house, where anyone could just take them.  It would be better to settle with your roommate.  If you do, make sure to get a release from liability -- a settlement agreement -- in writing.

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