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The story is - Parked and locked the bicycle at a seemingly secure parking-rack provided by a supermarket. I soon discovered that someone had locked my bicycle (and their own) to the rack. Returning a number of hours later (in the hope that the person had removed their bicycle and lock) I discovered that the whole rack had been removed and my bicycle taken. The thief simply unscrewed the bolts securing the rack to the ground and made off with the bicycle. The supermarket provided the parking-rack. There is CCTV from another source of the thief in action.

It is arguable that providing the parking-rack the supermarket (in this case the party contracted by the supermarket to install the parking racks) has a duty of care to potential users to insure that the parking-rack is fit-for-purpose and not easily removable.

Does installing arguably easy-to-remove parking-racks breach this duty?

If they had installed secure parking-racks I would still have my bicycle - are they liable for my loss?

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I doubt that you can prove liability in court, though the store's insurance company might be willing to provide some sort of settlement. (One wonders what you were doing "for hours" at a supermarket. The store will argue that the rack was for customers.) –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 21 '12 at 21:14
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Would you find them liable if you parked your car in the lot and then your car got stolen? It's an at-risk situation for you. You could have inspected the rack before locking up. Be happy that they got the thief on CCTV. Use that to go after the real person responsible. –  Tha Riddla Aug 21 '12 at 21:19
    
And if the thief had the time and tools to remove the rack, he could just as easily have had a Sawzall to cut through the rack. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 21 '12 at 21:38
    
See also: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/5336/… –  amcnabb Aug 21 '12 at 21:58
    
Also on the insurance side, my policy requires me to fasten my bike to an immovable object. (This clause caused me to sink a couple of anchors into the concrete floor of my own garage.) So obviously if somebody has been able to walk away with the rack... I'm afraid to say that not only will the store not be liable, but you may have no luck if you try to claim on insurance either. Be interested to hear how you get on. –  PeteH Aug 22 '12 at 11:16
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4 Answers

They provide the rack for you to park your bike not necessarily lock it, that part is up to you. I have never heard anyone make a claim that ANY rack is safe, the courts will find that it is your responsibility to check the effectiveness of the rack.

If shopping centers were responsible for the security of your bike, you would soon find that bike racks would no longer exist.

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The short answer is "No, it's likely that the store has no liability for the theft of your bike."

I am not a lawyer, so this longer answer is to the best of my layman's understanding

The key legal issue in the US is one of Bailment. For a bailment to be created the property in question has to be delivered to the bailee (the store or it's representative) by you (the bailor), and the bailee must have both possession and control of the property. Once a bailment has been created the bailee must take reasonable steps to care for the property that has been delivered but does not normally insure the bailor against all loss of or to the property while it is in the bailee's possession unless he expressly undertakes that obligation.

What this means is that the bailee is not liable for any and all damages or loss of the property while the property is in his care; he is only liable if the bailee can be proved negligent in caring for the property. Negligence can be proved if you can show that a reasonable person in possession and control of your property would not have taken whatever action led to the loss.

So, you rode up to a rack, chained up your bike and went your way. There was no transfer of possession or control from you to the store. The store couldn't move your bike (at least not under normal situations) and no individual implied in any way that they would look after or protect it. Even if it was obvious to a reasonable individual that the rack was poorly installed or easily circumvented, the bailment was not created in the first place, so the store has no duty whatsoever to protect your bike from theft or loss.

An overwhelming majority of cases covering automobiles have found no liability to the parking provider in similar cases. For example, when a customer pays a fee, drives his car to an available space, locks the car and takes the key, most US courts have held that you have merely leased space and that even with payment the control and possession of the vehicle necessary to constitute a bailment has not passed to the lot owner or operator.

If however you valet park your car, giving someone your keys in exchange for a claim ticket and they then park your car, which is subsequently stolen, you would likely have a claim because the operator/owner had not just possession but also control of the vehicle.

If you had been at some kind of event that had valet bike parking, then the answer might be different.

Here is a link about bailment with more information if you are part of the small segment of the population that has to know all the details (like me).

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They are anyway not liable, and these are the reasons that I can think of:

  • They never said that is was a secured rack. If you had secured your bike to a small tree, and the tree was cut and your bike taken, you wouldn't sue the government for not making stronger trees and not putting a sign to warn you: 'This is an insecure tree. Be warned'
  • When you parked your bike, you didn't even know for sure it was their rack. I assume that it was on public accessible ground, so anybody could have put a bike rack there.
  • Apparently when you parked your bike, you found the rack to be secure enough, or you wouldn't have parked your bike there. Now that your bike is missing, suddenly the rack isn't secure enough anymore. If your bike and the rack would have been still there when you returned, would you also have said that the rack wasn't secure enough? No, of course not! Double standards, huh?

UPDATE:
I admit that I was a bit too aggressive earlier, and that I shouldn't have written the 'typical American' comment.
I did some additional research too, but it was hard to find anything (semi)official. But although the things that I found, some of which are below, were by no means official, or maybe even trustworthy, they all said the same thing: Bad luck for you, but the shop is not liable.

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I haven't voted on this answer, but the downvote may be due to the snarky "typical American" comment. It would be nice to see a reference to a relevant legal discussion of liability. –  amcnabb Aug 21 '12 at 22:40
    
@amcnabb Yes, you are right of course, but I got a little carried away by my emotions when I was writing the answer. I still find this behaviour of suing everyone disgusting, but it shouldn't be in my answer, because it didnt provide any helpful information, and was definitely not an objective statement. –  BrtH Aug 21 '12 at 23:41
    
@BrtH I had a bike - my first ever road bike and my pride and joy that I'd travelled across Europe on - stolen out of my garage. The garage was locked but the bike wasn't. Even though I realise I could and should have done more to protect the bike, I was still gutted. Objectively-speaking you're absolutely right but in how you say it.....well, you may consider cutting the guy some slack... –  PeteH Aug 22 '12 at 11:22
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Also on the insurance side, my policy requires me to fasten my bike to an immovable object. (This clause caused me to sink a couple of anchors into the concrete floor of my own garage.) So obviously if somebody has been able to walk away with the rack...

I'm afraid to say that not only will the store not be liable, but you may have no luck if you try to claim on insurance either.

Be interested to hear how you get on.

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The question specifically states that the bolts holding the bike rack in were removed. At what point is something considered "immovable"? Anything can be moved with enough force. unless the bike rack is made out of solid steel, and sunk into the concrete there's a pretty good chance that a determined thief could find a way to move it. –  Kibbee Aug 22 '12 at 12:13
    
Absolutely. For me, I realise that there is no way I will stop a determined thief. But I do make sure if I leave my bike somewhere, it is sufficiently secure that in the event it gets stolen, my insurance will cough up. That's the most you can do. –  PeteH Aug 22 '12 at 13:03
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