Analysis | NATION

Dispute On Car Park Responsibility Over Break-In Continues

Should the car park owner be responsible if a car is broken into and items stolen? Or is it the responsibility of the car owner?
05 Oct 2019 13:19
Dispute On Car Park Responsibility Over Break-In Continues
The car park at the National Hockey Centre, Laucala, Suva.


Who is responsible if your vehicle in a car park is burgled and personal items were stolen?

In some car parks, it is clearly shown on a notice that the proprietors are not responsible for it. So who is?

That’s the centre of a dispute between the Fiji Sports Council and Shaamal Shivon Kumar.

The case originally went before a Small Claims Tribunal, then to the Magistrates Court and the appeals court in the High Court of Suva.

Kumar made a claim of $2105 at the tribunal against the council for the loss of his personal belongings.

He alleged that his car was parked at the National Hockey Centre, Suva, beside the security office and it was broken into and his personal belongings were stolen.

The tribunal awarded $2180 to Kumar. The council appealed to the Magistrates Court through its lawyer, Darmodaran Nair.

It contended that the tribunal referee acted unfairly:

  •  when he based his decision on the issue of law based on torts of negligence
  •  by not giving the council the right to be heard through its witness to prove that there was no physical break-in of the vehicle
  •  when he failed to determine the ownership of the goods allegedly stolen, but took the mere words of Kumar without any proof and this prejudicially affected the results of the proceedings
  •  when he took into considerations the Police report which is not conclusive to prove that the items were actually stolen
  •  when he determined the value of the items without any proof, but entirely relied on the mere words of Kumar
  •  when he failed to take into account the public notice that was displayed that clearly indemnified the council from loss of any personal property. Further Kumar was responsible for the security of his own personal belongings

The council also contended that the referee acted in excess of his jurisdiction.

The magistrate dismissed the appeal saying there was no evidence of any bias on the part of the referee or that the manner in which the proceedings were conducted, were unfair to the council or prejudicially affected the outcome of the claim.

The council then appealed the magistrate’s ruling in the High Court on the same grounds.

The judge, Justice Lyone Senevirante, said the manner in which the tribunal conducted the hearing was prejudicial to the council. He said he was of the view that this matter should have been instituted in the Magistrates Court or the Referee should have transferred it to the Magistrates Court for determination.

He ordered that the tribunal ruling and magistrate’s decision be set aside.

The matter is sent back to the tribunal for a fresh hearing before another referee or if the tribunal is now of the view it is appropriate to transfer the matter to the Magistrates Court.

Darmodaran Nair represented the council and N Mishra represented Kumar.

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