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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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