A man whose car was stolen from an airport parking lot sued after learning six cars had been stolen from the parking lot in recent weeks.
The man was left $4,000 out of pocket, even after making a claim on his insurance, and sued the car park owner for the money at the Disputes Tribunal. The tribunal’s decision did not identify the parties involved.
He told the tribunal he would not have parked his car in the car park if he had known about the thefts, claiming the car park owner had failed to take reasonable care of his car.
He was shocked to learn that the arm of the parking lot exit barrier was not designed to stop cars from passing, but was designed to rise, so it did not cause injury to the driver.
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But the man lost his claim, with the court ruling that the car park’s terms and conditions contained a clause claiming no liability for loss or damage to the vehicle.
While the court accepted that the contract limited the unnamed car park’s liability, it was still bound by the Consumer Guarantees Act, which requires services to be of acceptable quality and provided with a reasonable level of skill and care.
The parking lot was not fenced off, leaving public access easy, the court said, and was not advertised as a safe parking lot.
A treasure trove of items found by the police sit in storage waiting to be reunited with their owners.
Security cameras were in place and the site was monitored, which the court considered sufficient to show that the owners of the car park took reasonable care.
The parking company admitted to the court that there was an unusual increase in stolen cars between 24 July 2022 and 23 August 2022.
However, that jump was a blemish on his record. It said that in the previous 12 months, only one car had been stolen out of 432,000 that used the parks.
This showed that thefts were not common, it said, which the court accepted.
Kristen Wilson, consumer law specialist at law firm Bell Gully, said a company should not act in a misleading manner by failing to tell the customer something that meant the customer was misled about the nature, characteristics or fitness for purpose of the services.
“If, for example, a company advertised a ramp as a way to ensure safety, and it became apparent that it was not effective, then the company may be required to inform consumers of this, or change what they said about the ramp, so that consumers were not led in error,” she said.
She said that when a car park owner became aware of increased vehicle thefts from the premises, he might need to review the security statements he had made to ensure they were accurate.
“Perhaps disclosure of this risk is necessary to ensure that consumers were not misled about the service provided,” she said.
This can be done by putting up warning signs, although many car parks already have signs warning that thieves may be operating in the area.
“This ensures customers are aware of the risk and are not misled into thinking the car park owner can protect against it,” she said.
Car parks often claim that they have no responsibility for theft or damage to cars parked there, and some even claim that they have no responsibility for damage or theft, even if they were negligent.
Wilson Carparking’s contract states that it will take reasonable care of people’s cars, but even if it fails to do so, there is no liability for any damage to the cars or loss.
“This applies even if we are negligent or in breach of this agreement,” it says, although it claims that people parking their cars have absolute liability for any damage they cause in the car park.
Parking Enforcement Services, which provides parking enforcement services for 700 parking lots, is seeking similar damages, adding: “This applies even if we are negligent or in breach of this contract.”
Auckland International Airport’s parking agreement states: “You use our car park at your own risk in all respects and you fully release us and our employees and contractors from all liability for loss or damage to your vehicle or any other property whatsoever how it is caused. “
Insurer State, part of the IAG group of companies, has a list of tips people can use to reduce the chance of criminals breaking into their car.
These include buying and using a steering wheel lock, although he also suggests, “Have your car’s VIN engraved on every window you have. Car thieves want less hassle and don’t want to pay for replacement windows.”