How best to fight a charge of property damage to a car?

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How best to fight a charge of property damage to a car?

I recently had a house party. The next day, my duplex neighbor came to me saying that his pick up truck had a dented roof, as if someone walked on the roof. He didn’t see anyone and I asked around to those who attended. No one saw anyone do anything of the sort. However, he feels that because I had a party that it was most likely my responsibility. I live 2 blocks away from a college campus and think it is completely plausible that no one associated with my party had anything to do with this. Is it possible that I can be found liable for these damages, considering such a lack of evidence?

Asked on May 2, 2011 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is possible that you could be found liable. To be found liable, the neighbor would have to be able to convince the trier of fact (the jury; or the judge in a non-jury, such as a small claims court, trial) that it was either you or someone presumptively (for this purpose) under your control, such as a party guest, who did the damage. That will depend on the exact circumstances, the exact evidence, and how convincing any witnesses are. Without at least some direct evidence--e.g. the neighbor heard a "crunch" from his truck's roof while the party was going on; they found a bottle of beer discarded in the back of the truck, which was a kind of beer served at your party; someone saw a person climbing down from/leaning on/walking away from/etc. the truck and then going into your party; etc.--it may be very difficult to show this, but it's not necessarily impossible. If your party was very boisterous, had the police called, overflowed onto the street, etc., they may be able to convince the trier of fact.


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