If a car's broken into in a mechanic's lot, who pays?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

My car got broken into while sitting in my mechanic's parking lot, waiting to get fixed. The vandals broke the passenger-side window. The mechanic called the police and filed a police report, then replaced the window. He said he would not charge me for the labor to replace the window, but he wants to charge me for the window itself. Should I pay for the window, or is it the mechanic's responsibility, since I entrusted the car to him? Thanks. -- Rachel

RAY: Well, liability laws vary from state to state, Rachel, so you should call your local attorney general's office to check. But in most civilized states, once you fill out the repair order and leave your keys with the mechanic, the car is then considered to be in his care, custody and control. And from then until you pick it up, he's responsible for it, Rachel.

TOM: So he should cover the cost of both the parts and the labor necessary to fix it. And I should point out that most garages have insurance to cover just this sort of expense because, sometimes, stuff happens.

RAY: Maybe he doesn't want to make a claim to his insurer because he's been dropping too many cars off the lift in the past few weeks. But that's not your problem, Rachel.

TOM: Now, if you had dropped off the car the night before, left it in his lot without his knowledge and slid the key through the mail slot, then I think any overnight damage is your responsibility. In that case, he's being generous by offering you free labor, and you ought to thank him.

RAY: And, given my vast experience in the field, I would say that an appropriate gift in this case would be either a banana bread or a large Doberman pinscher.

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