Who bears liability for damage to a rental boat and can a marina charge a credit card for damage without authorization?

I recently rented a ski boat for a day. After returning the boat and the marina telling me I was free to go, I received a call from the marina/boat owner saying I hit something and caused damaged to the underside of the boat in which damage cost would be $300. Then 2 days later my credit card was charged with $600 plus 2 charges of $2100. I understand that I am responsible for damage caused to boat while renting, per contract. I assumed only the initial $300 charge for the damage would be on credit card. What are the laws about unauthorized credit card charges?

Asked on August 16, 2012 under Business Law, Kentucky


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Two different issues are presented here:

1) When you rented the boat, did the rental agreement authorize the rental company to put through any damages charges without subsequenct notice? If so, then if the charges are correct (see below), they could put the charges on your card without subsequent authorization from you--the initial agreement, in this case, provided all the authorization they needed. The issue is what, exactly, did the agreement provide; you could sue them to recover anything charged which goes beyond amounts authorized by the rental agreement.

2) Even if they could put through the damage charges, they could only charge you the actual cost to repair, assuming such is reasonable (they can't automatically charge you much more than it should cost, just because they happened to go to an unreasonably high-cost shop, for example). If you believe the charges are unfounded, unsupported, or unreasonable, you could sue them to recover the money on that basis--for example, on the basis that their initial $300 estimate was correct--and force them to justify and prove the charges in court.

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