Is a city responsible for damages when a car is broken into in a city owned lot?

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Is a city responsible for damages when a car is broken into in a city owned lot?

A friend was recently visiting a city museum (while on vacation) in an OR city (I don’t know which) and, in broad daylight, their car was broken in to. Approximately $4,500 worth of goods were stolen. They were told that the museum wasn’t responsible for this. I know this is not true in TX, no matter how many signs you post saying you are not responsible – you are. Is this true in OR? If so, will she have to appear in a small claims court if the city rejects a demand letter?

Asked on August 23, 2010 under General Practice, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The law generally (and I believe in Oregon) is that the owner of a parking lot is NOT liable for  damage or theft that occurs in the parking lot unless:

1) They themselves (or their employees) caused or contributed to the loss; or

2) The lot and its owner in someway accepted responsibility for the safekeeping of the car. So, for example, valet parking (where lot employees take possession of the car and park) is generally held to a much higher standard or duty than self parking, where the car's owner parks it. In the absence of something--a sign, a statement, a notice on any tickets or receipts, actions or statments by lot employees, etc.--by the lot indicating that they took responsibility for the cars in it, your friend is unlikely to be able to recover.

Note that if she has homeowner's insurance, his or her homeowner's policy might cover the theft; he or she should check the policy terms.


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