My storage unit contained valuable furniture and some artwork. There was a leak in the unit that I did not know about that caused damage to the property. I believe the storage company was aware of the leak from previous customers but did not mention it to me. I moved my property to a different unit and signed a contract limiting liability for water damage. However do you think I have a cause of action because they knew of the leak and rented it to me any way?
The cause of action would be for fraud (and alternatively for negligent misrepresentation). However, fraud is difficult to prove and requires a much higher burden of proof. Basically, you need to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the storage company KNEW that the storage unit leaked and represented to you that it did not leak. Unless there is an employee of the storage company or a former customer willing to testify in your favor, I think you have a tough case to prove. If you file a regular Superior Court lawsuit (as opposed to Small Claims), you have the right to conduct discovery, which might result in some leads as to whether the storage company knew or should have known about water leaks. You do not have the right to conduct discovery in Small Claims court.
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Yes, you have a cause of action, the problem is proving it. Also, it seems you would have signed a LL contract when moving in the first unit. You may have also hurt your case by not taking pictures of the leak and your furniture in the storage unit. Do you have witnesses?
Last, if you sue, you can get the storage records of the company and interview the prior tenants to prove your case. It would be better if you can get the names of the former tenants. Ask them to see the list of former tenants. There is also the possiblity that it did not rain much when the prior tenants were storing their stuff.
Although the above response is believed to be accurate, it should not be relied upon as any type of legal advice because the information provided is incomplete. It is intended to educate the reader and a more definite answer should be based on a consultation with a lawyer. No attorney client relation is formed with me without a written contract.
Good Luck starts with a strategy and a plan.
Robert J. Suhajda, MS,CPA
17721 Norwalk Blvd. #43
Artesia, CA 90701
Former financial auditor and controller. Admitted to US Tax Court, Income Tax, IRS representation, Fiduciary income tax returns, Estate and Gift tax returns,
Homeowner Association Strategist.
As a strategist, I analyze and integrate the operations, reserve study, budget, and financial statements into a unitary plan for 1 – 5 years, utilizing my experience as
a former treasurer and vice president of a homeowners' association and corporate
controller and auditor, to minimize homeowner association dues.