Who's liable for property damage caused by cell phone?

by Anonymous
(Pennsylvania)

My phone was lost/stolen over the weekend and I tracked it back to a restaurant. I found it stuck in the pipes of the toilet and was told by the manager that I have to pay to fix the plumbing, even though the phone was not in my possession when it was flushed down the toilet. He told me I had to wait until the next day to call a plumber to retrieve it as well.

At the time I found it, it was still on and functioning due to the waterproof case I had on it, but the longer is it in the water, the less likely it will be to work once retrieved. I tried to file a police report the night it happened and was told to wait until the morning.

Am I liable for these damages he is claiming, or is he liable for the damages to my phone? How can we resolve this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Who's liable for property damage caused by cell phone?":

Anonymous (Pennsylvania):

This is a unique case. We checked, and of the thousands of questions we have answered over the years, it appears this is the first question involving a cell phone and a toilet.

From the facts you present, there is no evidence you purposely or negligently caused your cell phone to be "stuck" in the pipes of the toilet. You have now retrieved the cell phone. While the restaurant manager can ask you to pay the plumbing bill, you really don't have a legal obligation to do so.

For you to be liable for damage to the toilet would require the restaurant to prove you damaged the toilet, or that you negligently caused your cell phone to fall into the toilet, and that negligence was the direct cause of damage to the toilet which required plumbing maintenance.

Thanks to the waterproof case, your cell phone was functioning after you retrieved it, and it had no apparent damage. You ask if the restaurant is liable for the damages to your phone. But since there is no apparent damage, there is no liability.

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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