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Old 09-01-2009, 13:17   #1
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legal advice

hello forum, my name is cliff. im on a 1965 bristol 27 "Pegasus" in key west, off christmas tree island. i just got here about 2 months ago. i for any of you familiar with key west, i park my dinghy on simonton beach.

the other night i tied it to the HYATT hotel's dock on the beach. (not to a cleat, not taking up any dock space- on the beach!) i come back that night to find my dinghy's line cut, half-ass wrapped around a big peice of coral, and a couple new holes in my dinghy. today (about a week later) i walk into the hyatt, and manage to speak with the man who rents out their docks. when i inquired to the man (FRED HOFFMAN), i managed to get him to tell me indirectly that he was responsible for the mischeif. it didnt take long for him to get angry at me (thats what you get for dreadlocks and a beard) and tell me to leave the premises. i now have a tresspassing warrant.

i am prepared to take legal action for reimbursement, (if im even eligible for it). im thinking because the vessel was below the tide line, maritime law might have my side. i would appreciate any advice, but moreso if somebody could point me in the right direction to a good 'maritime law' forum.

i know i dont like hearing about other people's problems, but i do thank you for reading mine. may favorable winds guide you safely.

-Cliff.
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Old 09-01-2009, 13:18   #2
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word

just checking to see if replies are sent to my email.
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Old 09-01-2009, 13:30   #3
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Hi, Cliff.

Sorry to hear about your dinghy. I've heard that dinghy access to shore is a real problem in the Keys, but damaging your boat is a pretty extreme way of discouraging the use of their pier.

I'm not aware of any lawyers on the forum, at least not any who offer free opinions. I'm certainly not qualified to give you any legal guidance, and if I did, you shouldn't take it!

Good luck to you!
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Old 09-01-2009, 13:46   #4
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You need a Florida lawyer for advice . Really, it sounds like a small claims case or Judge Judy. It seems to me you would have some recouse since it was an intentional, malicious action. If someone parks their car in my driveway, I can call the police or a tow truck to get it moved. I cannot set it on fire to remove it.
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Old 09-01-2009, 13:58   #5
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Did you report it to a law enforcement agency such as the USCG or Florida DEP law enforcement division?
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Old 09-01-2009, 13:59   #6
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yeah im sure i have legal recourse, and i would imagine it to be a pretty big offense. i dont want a florida lawyer, i need someone specializing in maritime law. i dont have money for an attorney, so im looking for a code essentialy to use as a scare tactic when i call the corporate headquarters.

because my dinghy was below the tide line; i would think that cutting its line (essentially its anchor), and on top of that putting holes in it, would be intentionally putting the vessel in distress.

what really gets me about this is how he threatened to do it again to other people's boats, and as a sailor i think this guy is a liability to the safety of the boats, and the people who use them.
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Old 09-01-2009, 14:00   #7
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Theres always 2 ways to go: The lawyer - expensive, time consuming, dispute of jurisdiction, haircut for you etc

or

Ring their lawyer and gently explain the situation are ask for reimbursement - No expense, little time, they can't see your hair! Ring 1-800-233-1234 and ask for the Legal Department. Their Consumer Affairs Department may be able to do the same thing too as big companines don't want bad press.

By the way. Did you report it to local police? If the company doesn't help immediately I would call the police
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Old 09-01-2009, 14:08   #8
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If you're a member of Boat U.S. you might get them interested to at least make a call.

In any event, a call from an intermediary (i.e., a lawyer of just about any sort) would seem to me to be a better alternative than trying it yourself.

And, of course, you should report it to the local authorities. What you have here is a case of willful destruction of private property and a threat to do it again. The fact that it was a boat -- a dingy at that -- is incidental.

I agree that the Hyatt is likely to be anxious to avoid any further clamor over this.

And, there's always the local newspapers and other media :-)

Bill
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Old 09-01-2009, 14:21   #9
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Going to the local newspapers is a really bad idea. You could get sued for slander on top of attorney and court fees for which you could also be liable. If you want to be taken seriously, you need an attorney to argue with or threaten any corporation. I'm sure no one at the dock will willingly admit anything and whatever anyone may or may not have said to you is hearsay. You are in for a frustrating scenario. If the dock space is posed as I've seen there, you are out of luck entirely.
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Old 09-01-2009, 14:31   #10
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Cliff,

The guy was totally unjustified for causing your loss (if he did). What he did was against the law (if he did it), you should have gone to the police and insisted on filing a complaint immediately. If the guy admitted to the police that he did it, you may or may not have a case for a criminal complaint. However, I doubt that it would get far unless the guy confessed to the police. If he confessed to the police and they took it to the DA (which I doubt), he may have received a fine and restitution of your property loss..

Here is your problem. If you tied your dinghy to the coral, your offense may be much greater than the guy that damaged your dinghy. Going the "Legal" route with criminal charges could have big repercussions.

The better route may be to sue the guy in Small Claims Court. You will be required to show proof of your claim. Your word against his may not be sufficient. Saying that he admitted it will probably not go far.

Again, a police report would have been helpful. That's the 1st thing that the judge will ask you for.

Good luck with it. the better choice may be to put it behind you, find another dinghy and get on with your life. Some things are just not worth pursuing and can cause you more emotional harm than it is worth.

Happy sailing my friend.

I have no idea what the limitations on
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Old 09-01-2009, 14:55   #11
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Yeah - I'm licensed to practice in Florida. AND I AM NOT GIVING YOU LEGAL ADVICE. So, here goes:

1. Hyatt's legal deparment will not negotiate with you.

2. Their liability carrier might -assuming you can find out who it is.

3. Whatever Mr. Hoffman said to you is admissible as an admission by an adverse party. This does not mean that the judge will necessarily believe it, and you can bet that in the event of court action, Mr. Hoffman will deny it.

4. No lawyer will take your case and you do not need one. You should get your dinghy repaired; make copies of all receipts; and IF you deem it worthwhile, file a small claims action. You need to allege intentional damage to your property by a Hyatt employee.

5. The courthouse in Key West is located at:

Clerk of the Circuit Court
Circuit Civil Division
500 Whitehead Street
Key West, FL 33040
305-294-4641

The Clerk will have small claims forms available that you can fill out - be sure to attach copies of your receipts. The fees are recoverable as part of your damages if you win. You should sue both Hoffman and Hyatt. For more information, go here:

Monroe County

If you decide to go the small claims route, there is a "fair" chance that Hyatt's lawyer/adjuster will try to settle with you.

Good Luck and Fair Winds
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Old 09-01-2009, 15:05   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slomotion View Post
IMHO:

1. Hyatt's legal deparment will not negotiate with you.

2. Their liability carrier might -assuming you can find out who it is.

3. Whatever Mr. Hoffman said to you is admissible as an admission by an adverse party. This does not mean that the judge will necessarily believe it, and you can bet that in the event of court action, Mr. Hoffman will deny it.

4. No lawyer will take your case and you do not need one. You should get your dinghy repaired; make copies of all receipts; and IF you deem it worthwhile, file a small claims action.

5. The courthouse in Key West is located at:

Clerk of the Circuit Court
Circuit Civil Division
500 Whitehead Street
Key West, FL 33040
305-294-4641

The Clerk will have small claims forms available that you can fill out - be sure to attach copies of your receipts. The fees are recoverable as part of your damages if you win. You should sue both Hoffman and Hyatt. For more information, go here:

Monroe County

If you decide to go the small claims route, there is a "fair" chance that Hyatt's lawyer/adjuster will try to settle with you.

Good Luck and Fair Winds
This advice is spot-on IMHO....

The chances of Hoffman admitting guilt is slim to none and you winning are slim. It might be wise to weigh what it may do to you emotionally.

The time that it will take might be better spent repairing or replacing your dinghy. Sometimes things happen in life that one cannot control. Sometimes one must just learn to move on beyond it.
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Old 09-01-2009, 15:17   #13
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Please don't be angry with me, and I'm not a troll, but did you ask permission to tie to a private property dock? Dont get me wrong, what this guy did to your dingy was despicable...but having cruised the Keys, something tells me you knew better...
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Old 09-01-2009, 16:48   #14
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Go to small claims court!

Been in similar situation with large corporation. After numerous phone calls, emails and faxes over three months requesting payment for lost lugage on a cruise line I sent a fax to customer service and copied corporate headquarters and legal dept with a full history of all previous communications, names, dates, receipts for lost property, etc.

I sent a copy of the letter and claim form I prepared to send to small claims court. I stated the letter was going out the next day if I did not get a reply. Had an answer from the legal dept of the cruise line the same day and a check was mailed the next day.

Document everything, take photos of the damage, get receipts. Fax, phone and email to appropriate parties and save a record of everything you do, everyone you contact and the date of the call. If no results within a reasonable time THEN inform them that you are filing a claim in small claims court. It will cost them more to go dispute the claim than to pay. If they do not appear I believe they lose by default.
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Old 09-01-2009, 17:00   #15
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The problem with getting legal advice on the internet, other than the obvious, is that there is no such thing as generic procedures with respect to any form of litigation including that conducted by small claims courts. As the plaintiff, you will be required to pay filing fess and count costs if you lose in many small claims courts ( varies by state).

Given that the issue here appears to be damage done to a dinghy I infer is not new, it hardly seems worth anyone's time to pursue this unless you do so purely as a matter of principle.
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