Is an employer responsible for property that was stolen due to their negligence in refusing to fix a work vehicle?

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Is an employer responsible for property that was stolen due to their negligence in refusing to fix a work vehicle?

I am an AC tech and I was using a company vehicle while working at a customers home. I had my toolbox in the back of the work van. The van is missing parts that allow the doors to close properly. While turning one day, my toolbox hit the door forcing the doors to fly open and my toolbox falling out. When I realized it and went back to get my toolbox, approximately 2 minutes later, they are gone. I had made a police report and notified the company immediately. The company stated that they would not cover any of the property that was stolen or file with their insurance to cover the cost. Is there any obligation for them to replace tools stolen? Any state statutes or case law that can help me? Can I file a suit in small claims court?

Asked on September 27, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You *might* be able to recover money in small claims court (your only option) IF you can convince the court that the company knew the doors would not close and it was negligent, or unreasonably careless, to not fix the doors knowing of that problem, and also that it was the failure of the doors to properly close, and not, say, your fault, in putting your tools near doors that you knew did not close without tying them down or securing them, that caused the loss (since if you were careless or otherwise also at fault, your own fault will reduce, or possibly eliminate, what you might otherwise recover). So it is possible, but not a given or guaranty, that you would win in small claims court. Meanwhile, to sue, you'll pay the filing fee and give up (if it goes to trial) essentially a day of work/pay--and even if you win, you will not be compensated for your time. And, of course, you will damage your relationship with  your employer. Consider carefully whether this is worth doing.


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