i'm pee-wee herman determined to get my bikes replaced
February 15, 2007 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Two of my bicycles and my work stand (and a bike not mine) were stolen out of my condo building's basement bike storage room. The perps (who we've seen on tape) easily entered the front door of the building twice a few evenings ago. I've got no home owners insurance and the replacement value of the bikes is quite significant. I thought I was pretty much screwed until I recieved a call from the building's developer. He had the door company out to fix the now obvious flaw in the front door. The door company stated that the lock was incorrectly installed and forced entry would have been "impossible" had things been installed correctly. The developer told me that he called his lawyer, and that the lawyer said I could "file against" the company that installed the door (though I'm sure this wasn't official legal advice).

My immediate thought was that the developer is trying to cover his ass. After all, I'm sure he signed off on the work that was done. I bought the property from him. I didn't buy security from the door installer directly.

I'm going to call a lawyer tomorrow, but still want to see if the hive mind has any thoughts about this situation. Perhaps you've been in a similar one, though I hope you haven't. I would appreciate any help. The thieves hit me where it hurts! Mah bikes!
posted by ArcAm to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Well, this certainly makes me think twice about storing my partner's bikes in our condo building's bike room.

If the lock was incorrectly installed, and you have all the theft on video, you might be able to sue. I am not a lawyer, though, so I think you should consult one.
posted by bedhead at 11:29 PM on February 15, 2007

I think the developer was trying to shift the blame. Suing is going to cost you some money in lawyers fees. I'm not sure how much the bikes are worth but you will have to weigh the costs to see if it is worth hiring a lawyer.
posted by JJ86 at 5:54 AM on February 16, 2007

Depending on how much the bikes were worth, you might be able to bring your claim in small claims court. (Here in MN, the limit is $7500.00). You won't need a lawyer for small claims court. Also, your local courthouse might have lawyers on hand to answer simple questions like this and point you in the right direction.

Remember that you'll have to give 1/3 of any settlement to the lawyer (they will most likely take the case on a contingency basis), so it may be a better option to forego the lawyer.
posted by elquien at 6:33 AM on February 16, 2007

I have researched this issue before, and there are cases in many states holding landlords and/or people who have done work on buildings liable for theft caused by their negligence. However, it will depend on the state you are in. I think that your instinct to call a lawyer rather than filing yourself in small claims court is a good one. This area of law is not the most well-settled, and you will have to prove that the people that installed the door were negligent, and that their negligence caused your bike to get stolen. This may take building a case that will require a lawyer's assistence. Small claims court judges are also not the most knowledgeable people on earth, so they might not be aware of case law in your state that supports your position.

You also may be able to settle with the company that installed the door, but they probably won't take you seriously until you file (contractors get lots of threats of lawsuits, they have become almost immune to them), but just calling them and telling them what you learned and that you want x amount of money or you will sue is also worth a try.

Finally, I usually don't bother with these boilerplate disclaimers, but this is more advice than I usually give, so here goes: I am a lawyer. I am not a lawyer in your state and I don't know your state's laws. The only advice that I can really give you is to seek the assistance of an attorney licensed in your state. I am certainly not your lawyer, and what I have said should not be construed as creating a lawyer/client relationship.

Good luck. Sorry about your bikes.
posted by ND¢ at 6:55 AM on February 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get homeowners insurance. It is really damn cheap considering the coverage you get.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:21 AM on February 16, 2007

This is a good question on liability issues. Who is really liable here, the building owner, the general contractor or the subcontractor who installed the lock?

Your lawyer would need to have access to the original agreements in place at the time of construction. Many agreements hold risk transfer mechanisms that would hold harmless during the construction phase. However it is possible that there is a residual hold harmless clause in place for post construction fault found or discovered within a reasonable time frame.

Your lawyer will need to investigate whether this was the case in order to go after the locksmith, the general contractor or even a third party.

Most likely, you will be advised to pursue the building owner for failiure to provide adequate security.

And get yourself some basic insurance...
posted by pezdacanuck at 8:14 AM on February 16, 2007

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