If a contractor’s tools are stolen while they are working on a job, can the client be held responsible?

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If a contractor’s tools are stolen while they are working on a job, can the client be held responsible?

Over a year ago construction was being done at my local church and the some of the workers left their tools behind in the building. However the church was broken into and some of the tools were stolen. Now the contractor is demanding that the church reimburse him for his stolen tools. There was never an agreement that the church was responsible for stolen goods, and many feel that it is unethical that the man ask for reimbursement because he was never required to leave behind his tools and the church was not responsible for being broken into. A police report was likely to be written, but it was left at that and nothing more. Is the church responsible for his stolen goods?

Asked on July 20, 2014 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A person, business, or church is very rarely responsible for the criminal acts of others--only if it did something to greatly increase the odds of the crime happening. So if, for example, the church failed to lock its doors and that's why tools were stolen--it was a crime of opportunity, and the church created the opportunity--they might be liable. Otherwise, unless the church was actually involved--such as a church employee stole the tools *for the church's benefit*, such as to sell them to raise money for the church--they should not be liable.


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