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MMD > Archives > June 2007 > 2007.06.27 > 06Prev  Next

Limit of Liability When Customer Can't Be Found
By Ray Finch

Re: 070626 MMDigest

Well, John (the usual disclaimer applies: I'm not a lawyer, etc.), it
sounds to me like you have gone _way_ above and beyond what anyone
would expect in such situations.  I mean 8 and 10 years?  If only other
service companies were so patient! :-)

I'm not sure about the actual legal liability, that most likely varies
from state to state, but for most restoration / service / repair
businesses anything left unpaid for or not picked up for 30 days starts
collecting storage fees.  Some time after that (3 months or so) the
item is considered abandoned and it may be sold to pay for the amount
still owned on the item.  As a general policy of course usually this
is posted on a sign in your shop where a customer can see and therefore
tacitly agrees to.

In the case of the customer whom you haven't heard from in eight years,
I think it is pretty safe to assume that he is not coming back.  He
abandoned the piano.  I'm sure whatever he gave you for a deposit by
now is something less than 8 years of storage fees.  Unless you still
have a way to contact the customer, I'd say that the piano is yours.

Even if you do manage to contact the customer, whether he still wants
the work done or just wants the piano back, he _doesn't_ get the
deposit back -- that money is already spent.  I mean, his piano has
been taking up space in your shop for eight years!

With the guy who passed away, I think this one is a bit easier.  You
did contact the relatives, that was correct thing to do.  But when the
relatives told you that they "would discuss the matter with the family"
and get back to you they were just being polite.  Obviously no one in
the family is interested in paying $5000 to finish a restoration on
a piano that no one in the family wants.  Since they never got back to
you and there was still $5000 owed on the job, after ten years I'd say
you would have every right to claim the piano and sell it to recover
the amount still owed on it.

Think about it this way: If you left your $40,000 car at a mechanic's
shop for 10 years and then just showed up one day, would you really be
all that surprised to find out that the mechanic sold the car some
years earlier?

Most states, if not all by now, have the state statutes online.  You
could look up what your liability is.  Realistically though, from a
practical standpoint these customers are not coming back.  The pianos
are yours.

Ray Finch
Albuquerque, New Mexico

(Message sent Thu 28 Jun 2007, 01:14:23 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Be, Can't, Customer, Found, Liability, Limit, When

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