Many of us have left our cars in parking garages, and expect our cars to be there, and in the same condition, when we return. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
First, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.
Many of us have left our cars in parking garages, and expect our cars to be there, and in the same condition, when we return. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Adam from California wrote:
In California, whenever you use valet parking, on the back of your parking slip there is a notice that the valet company is not responsible for any damage to your car. If the valet scratches or damages the car while parking it, how can they not be held responsible?
Adam’s question has two parts. First, whether the disclaimer has any effect generally, and second, assuming the disclaimer has an effect, does the disclaimer operate to insulate the company from the acts of its own employees? The answers vary widely from state to state, and depending on other circumstances.
In some states, including Alabama, California, and Louisiana, courts have held that a preprinted ticket that includes an express waiver of liability can give sufficient notice to the customer that the parking lot was not taking responsibility for damage. So, those courts held, in some circumstances, that the parking garage was not liable for damages caused by third parties to the car while the car was parked in the garage or lot.
In some cases, courts have held that the waiver of liability does not apply where the customer did not see the waiver. For example, if the waiver is listed on a sign in the garage, but the customer did not see it, or would not normally pass the sign before leaving the garage, then the waiver does not work.
Other courts will only allow the waiver of liability to work where you do not give your car to an employee of the garage. So, if you get a preprinted ticket from a machine with a waiver, park the car yourself, and take the keys with you, then the garage is not responsible for damages. Only where you actually give the car to an attendant, and the attendant parks the car for you and keeps the keys, will some courts void the waiver of liability.