Is there common/statutory/case law that helps prove that

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Is there common/statutory/case law that helps prove that

As an employee of a federal government hospital, I requested a locker in the men’s locker room. When it was given to me, the man responsible for locker maintenance took my name and hospital department name, so he knew whose locker it was and where he could find me. Over a year later, this man put signs in the locker room stating that

Asked on March 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It's not a strong case either for or against you. It depends on whether a court, if you were to sue, would find that signs indicating "fumigation" and that "valuables" should be removed were a reasonable warning that everything needed to be removed or not. The warning does not have to be perfect or perfectly clear--it's enough if a reasonable person would have understood it. If a reasonable person would have, then the hospital and its employee did its legal duty; if a reasonable person would not have understood to remove all belongings, then this may have been negligent destruction of property. Since the term "fumigation" implies the use of dangerous chemicals, it's not unreasonable to think that people should take everything out; also, "valuables" means generally anything you don't want lost or destroyed (so that you don't care about what happens to anything left behind). That said, the instructions certanly could have been clearer, and it would have cost nothing to make them clearer--ease of rendering more care increases the likelihood that the precautions taken would be seen as inadequate, since there is a cost-benefit component to the analysis of whether a duty of care was discharged. As this answer began, arguments could be made both ways; you could sue and possibly win, but its far from definite.
What did most other employees do? If most removed all (or at least anything they cared about) and you were one of few (or the only one) who did not, that would support the hospital that the warning was adequate. If many other employees are in the same position as you, that would imply it was not.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It's not a strong case either for or against you. It depends on whether a court, if you were to sue, would find that signs indicating "fumigation" and that "valuables" should be removed were a reasonable warning that everything needed to be removed or not. The warning does not have to be perfect or perfectly clear--it's enough if a reasonable person would have understood it. If a reasonable person would have, then the hospital and its employee did its legal duty; if a reasonable person would not have understood to remove all belongings, then this may have been negligent destruction of property. Since the term "fumigation" implies the use of dangerous chemicals, it's not unreasonable to think that people should take everything out; also, "valuables" means generally anything you don't want lost or destroyed (so that you don't care about what happens to anything left behind). That said, the instructions certanly could have been clearer, and it would have cost nothing to make them clearer--ease of rendering more care increases the likelihood that the precautions taken would be seen as inadequate, since there is a cost-benefit component to the analysis of whether a duty of care was discharged. As this answer began, arguments could be made both ways; you could sue and possibly win, but its far from definite.
What did most other employees do? If most removed all (or at least anything they cared about) and you were one of few (or the only one) who did not, that would support the hospital that the warning was adequate. If many other employees are in the same position as you, that would imply it was not.


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