Liability for driving over skateboard left on sidewalk?

by Jean
(Sacramento, California)

I was driving in a residential neighborhood and was looking to park my car, and could not find a spot on the right side of the street close to my friend's house. I looked further down the street and saw that there were some boys playing in the street, so I had to look for a parking space closer to where I was.

I spotted an empty parking space across the street, and made a u-turn onto the sidewalk of the driveway and was trying to park my car, but while I was driving forward, I heard a loud noise and felt something on the right side of the car. So I quickly park the car, got out and looked to investigate what it was, and looked behind my car, and went to the sidewalk, and didn't see anything.

Then, I heard the boys that were playing down the street, running towards me, and one of the boys picked up something on the other side of the driveway, actually in the gutter, and shouted his skateboard was broken. I then realized that it was his skateboard that I hit. He brought it to me and showed me the damaged board.

I made a mental note of what it looked like, as he told me that the board cost $100. I saw that it was a plastic board, which I didn't think cost that much. I should have taken a picture of it, but I was in a hurry to get to my friend's house for our club meeting.

So, the next day I ran around looking for this skateboard at various stores, and couldn't find it. One of the salesman at Toys'R'Us was kind enough to help me and searched online and and found it at Walmart.

Then, my friend gave both the mother and I email addresses and we have been emailing each other re this issue. The first email, she states that the skateboard was a gift from the grandparents as an x-mas gift, and said that it cost $100 and sent me a pic of the skateboard.

I told her that I know I was at fault for running over the skateboard, but only for a portion of it (50%), and that I felt her son was also at fault (the other 50%) for his negligence. I emailed the mother the picture of the skateboard that I bought, and offered it as an replacement, but she says that is not the skateboard her son had, and refused to accept it, and told me his board was a specialty board.

She wanted me to give her $100 and didn't believe that her son was at fault at all. She wanted to know why I felt her son should pay for half of it. So, in the meantime, I returned the skateboard I bought from Walmart, but found that I couldn't return it to them, but to a company called TGM Skateboards, who charged me $23 to return it.

My questions: Who is at fault here? Do I have recourse in getting a reimbursement for the return of the skateboard she refused to accept? Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability for driving over skateboard left on sidewalk?":

Jean (Sacramento, California):

It appears you were at fault. You ran over the boy's skateboard. There is no evidence the owner of the skateboard displayed any negligence. The boys were engaging in a healthy pursuit when you ran over one of their skateboards.

It's pretty simple. Identify the exact style, type and model number of the skateboard you destroyed. Then, go and purchase the exact model, or give the boy or his parents the exact amount of money it takes to purchase the same skateboard locally. Don't make any excuses or detours.

The boy was enjoying playing with his friends when you interrupted by destroying his skateboard. To bicker over a few dollars, especially when you were at fault, seems ridiculous.

The boy and his parents have no legal duty to reimburse you for the "restocking charge." To ask for that reimbursement only magnifies the absurdity of the entire affair.

If you refuse to "Do the right thing," and the boys parents decide to sue you, they can do so in one of California's Small Claims Courts.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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