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clifflindsey 09-01-2009 13:17

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.

clifflindsey 09-01-2009 13:18

word
 
just checking to see if replies are sent to my email.

Hud3 09-01-2009 13:30

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!

Bradley 09-01-2009 13:46

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.

Captain Bill 09-01-2009 13:58

Did you report it to a law enforcement agency such as the USCG or Florida DEP law enforcement division?

clifflindsey 09-01-2009 13:59

word
 
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.

MarkJ 09-01-2009 14:00

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 :)

btrayfors 09-01-2009 14:08

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

S/V Illusion 09-01-2009 14:21

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.

Kanani 09-01-2009 14:31

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

slomotion 09-01-2009 14:55

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

Kanani 09-01-2009 15:05

Quote:

Originally Posted by slomotion (Post 242065)
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.

Christian Van H 09-01-2009 15:17

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...

skipmac 09-01-2009 16:48

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.

S/V Illusion 09-01-2009 17:00

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.

slomotion 09-01-2009 17:09

Quote:

Originally Posted by skipmac (Post 242094)
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.

Well, the big difference is that you were indisputedly a paying customer with an express or implied contract. In Cliff's case the Hyatt can claim that they have no liability because he was at their dock illegally or not at their dock at all, and Hoffman didn't do it; or if he did, he was acting beyond the scope of his employment (that one is probably a loser).

skipmac 09-01-2009 17:56

Quote:

Originally Posted by slomotion (Post 242104)
Well, the big difference is that you were indisputedly a paying customer with an express or implied contract. In Cliff's case the Hyatt can claim that they have no liability because he was at their dock illegally or not at their dock at all, and Hoffman didn't do it; or if he did, he was acting beyond the scope of his employment (that one is probably a loser).

Quite correct regarding the difference in the situations and legal claims. The similarity I was referring to was little guy vs big corporation.

Cliff does seem adamant in pursuing a claim but am guessing more to prove the point than to recover the cost of repairs (yes or no Cliff?). Regarding costs to file, I am in FL and researched the cost but that was about ten years ago. However at that time filing and court costs were not too much, somewhere in the $50-$100 range if I recall. This can be determined in advance.

Skip

Martinini 09-01-2009 18:24

My advice is to get a voice activated recorder, put it in your shirt pocket where it can't be seen and see if he is stupid enough to admit it again and get it on tape. Play it for his boss etc. Make copies and send to Coporate. Also great in small claims court. Not illegal to record in a public place and generally is admissable in court. Never let go of the orginal, only copies until issue is resolved. Is that a warrant or warning, either way you shouldn't go back. Save my idea for next time!

Kanani 09-01-2009 20:21

Cliff,

I'd be careful about getting all riled up over this.

I put myself in the shoes of Hyatt Management for the moment.

------------------------------------
I get a call from legal. They say that some guy is threatening litigation over alleged activity down at the dinghy doc. He said that one of our employees damaged his property.

I immediately get on the phone and call the person that is responsible for the dinghy doc......the conversation goes something like this:

Mr Hoffman, I just got a call from legal. He said that one of our employees allegedly damaged a boaters property. I want you to be sure that anyone using our doc is doing so legally. If there are any issues, call the police and/or the Coast Guard. Do not handle it yourself.
-------------------------------------------

Now Mr Hoffman calls the Coast Guard every time that someone anchors their dinghy near the doc. Those reefs are protected and there is a heavy fine for damaging the reef. I can only imagine the havoc that this guy could cause for you and others.

Not worth the aggravation in my book.

GreatKetch 09-01-2009 22:24

I think this is actually pretty funny.

A guy ties up to a private dock, he KNOWS it is a private dock, and he thinks he has rights to do so because it is "below the tide line" (what dock isn't???)

I wonder if he would allow anybody and everybody who wanted to tie their dinghy without asking to HIS boat when it was anchored out "below the tide line".

Give me a break.

David M 09-01-2009 23:11

I do feel sorry for him. Its totally wrong to damage someones property like that. But if someone wanted to pirate my boats slip while I am not there, using the same reasoning they could.

Celestialsailor 10-01-2009 01:49

At least if you drag him through court and loose, it will send a strong message to the hotel and to him. You might cause them to change their policy for others.

BassAckwards 10-01-2009 03:36

This sounds like two people not respecting other's rights.

Though not a lawyer I often have to use small claims court here in Texas for past due receivables.

The Florida Lawyer (previous poster) gave you good advice. No lawyer will touch your case unless you pay up front. (probably $3000-$5000)

There are not enough damages for a lawyer to work on contingency. (ie: If damages=$1000., he would get approximately $400. + expenses, and if he needs an expert witness, add a couple of thousand more)

Maritime Attorneys will laugh at you, and they dont deal with nickel and dime cases.

You can still file in small claims and represent yourself. Hyatt will have to decide whether they want to spend money on a lawyer or pay you off. I wouldnt be surprised if they pay you off. Be prepared to negotiate and hard.

What I think I would do is file a criminal complaint with the police for vandalism. It would be less effort on your part and you get some satisfaction. Plus someone just might call you and ask what can be done $$$$$ :p to get you to drop your complaint.

Though the manager had no right to damage your property, you were probably wrong for tying to his dock.

If Hyatt had the proper signs stating "For Guests Only", the manager could possibly have locked and chained your dingy and demanded you pay a dock fee.

Pete the Cat 10-01-2009 03:52

As I think most folks who have been there will confirm, Key West is not a great place for transient cruising sailors, unless you are loaded with bucks to rent a mooring that includes some kind of dinghy privilege. My dinghy was cut loose from the Key West public 2 hour dock when I went to check in. Folks in the anchorage just laugh at me when I told them I had parked there. I guess I should have suspected when I observed the $10 a day dinghy dock overflowing with dinghies and the public short term dock completely empty. They told me that I was lucky it was not stolen or sunk by the local kids. But in travelling through all of the both US Coasts and 7 Central American countries I never saw a place more hostile to transient vessels who try to use their own hook or crappier holding ground.

clifflindsey 10-01-2009 03:58

word
 
thanks for all your replies. i never planned to pursue this in a court of law, i was simply looking for legitimite illegal accusations that i could threat their headquarters worth, and get some sort of small retribution. my dinghy will be fine with some natty cans and 5200.

i will give you a break greatketch. though i would imagine boats tied off to mine would be a hazard to my own well being as opposed a boat on a public beach tied down with 3/4 inch line to a grouned wooden pillar.

Boomp 10-01-2009 04:54

Glad you didn't just let it go.
 
You should not have tied up...there. But its an easy situation to get into. Cutting your dinghy was malicious and way out of line. Reminds me of people who would drop 2000 lb bombs on rock throwers. But there are people like that, along with people who consent to that..? Imagine if you were a Mafia thug and you broke the guys legs for the damage he initiated. I think he'd get the message but you'd be lowering yourself to scum mentality. I truley am glad you didn't just let this go. IF the person had simply left a note..."Do not leave your boat here again" you would have got the point and gone somewhere else. Don't go back there, you'l likely get arrested by his relative. But do contact thier lawyer...he'l likely let the idiot know he can't damage other peoples property.
That way when I tie off to his dock, I won't have to break his legs. ;)

swagman 10-01-2009 05:04

My own views are not like the one above.
Appreciate it is not right to let guys like this harbour bloke get away with criminal damage - but surely the cost in even worry lines and lost time makes it not worth chasing this up.
Take the higher ground - stop thinking about it at all.
Let them / him sit and continue being the bad people, you are not going to change that anyway.
You simply fix the damage and get on with living the good life.
Good luck
JOHN

Celestialsailor 10-01-2009 12:08

Quote:

Originally Posted by swagman (Post 242232)
My own views are not like the one above.
Appreciate it is not right to let guys like this harbour bloke get away with criminal damage - but surely the cost in even worry lines and lost time makes it not worth chasing this up.
Take the higher ground - stop thinking about it at all.
Let them / him sit and continue being the bad people, you are not going to change that anyway.
You simply fix the damage and get on with living the good life.
Good luck
JOHN

True...this is probably the best choice of action. I remember a story some time ago about a cruiser anchoring off a small village in Mexico (I think). He tied his little tired wooden dinghy onshore to a tree and when he returned it had been stolen. He then proceeded to spend 2 weeks on that beach, under that tree building a new dink from scratch. All the time whistling and singing like he was having a great time...and he probably was. He felt the lesson to the town was to see him everyday in good spirits while the thief's had to hide the whole time. There had to be a certain amount shame to the village also.

Ex-Calif 12-01-2009 02:00

IANAL but there are two separate actions here.

A person tied up to a private dock - The owner of the dock has not pursued this so the point is entirely moot.

A dinghy was willfully and intentionally damaged by a person who admitted it.

I would leave the Hyatt out of it. Repair my dinghy at my cost and sue the individual who did it in small claims court. Maybe name both to cover the bases. You can bet if you name both the Hyatt will cut this guy lose and try to get the moeny from him. Big corporations are like that.

Although not significant in the case, I would also file a police report so I had that handy when I went to claims court. If the police interview the person who did it and he admits to them he did it, I would insist on charges being pressed on the individual.

For those who think the parking of the dinghy is germaine to the discussion. Imagine you parked your car in the wrong place - willfully or not - it was a reserved parking spot for the president of the bank say. The bank can have you moved, towed whatever. They cannot send a goon out to flatten your tires and smash your windscreen.

nautical62 31-01-2009 11:44

I think Slomotion's advice and Ex-Calif's points above made a lot of sense to me.

Related to those points, I don't think you can assume tying to and possibly putting your own body on a private dock located in the United States is a matter of maratime law.

I do believe that when it comes to trespassing (which is what you did in my opinion), the owner of a property generally has no obligation to protect the trespasser or their possessions,(As they would with someone who was invited) but also has no right to intentionally harm the tresspasser or their posessions.

If I were in your position, I'd probably let it go - but that's me. If I were to take it farther my argument would be that had my dingy been damaged by their boat docking, damage because they moved it to use the dock, etc, I would be owed no compensation, but since it was intentionally damaged, I am owed compensation. The fact that I was trespassing does not give you the right to intentionally harm me or my property.

Of course in your case, they'd probably deny they intentionally harmed it and have you arrested for trespassing.

The lack of public docks and general attitude to transients and those who anchor out in SE Florida is one reason I prefer the Bahamas.

Hiracer 31-01-2009 17:32

I think Ex-Calif is spot on, but good luck proving this guy did it short of a highly improbable admission to a third party.

The hotel certainly is not going to give money to somebody they consider a trespasser under ANY circumstances short of a judgment.

This business about being below a certain tide line is of no consequence. That might give somebody a right of beach access, but it's not going to lead to a right to tie to somebody else's private property. Access and tying up are not at all the same thing, no matter how much you wish it to be. That's were the confusion first started.

Therapy 31-01-2009 17:35

Quote:

Originally Posted by clifflindsey (Post 242024)

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.

Does that mean you won't bother to listen and help them also?

Just curios since I don't know whether to help you or not.

I don't feel a wind, just sort of a vacuum from here.


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