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I’m replacing my front lawn with gravel. There is a green cable box on my lawn/my neighbor’s lawn. We both thought it wasn’t in use. My connection
comes from underground on the other side of my house. So I removed it and
continued, and of course I found out it was in use. They sent me a 3k bill today. I told the 3rd party handling the case that I couldn’t afford it. It was a stupid move on my part to cut the cord and remove it. They came and fixed it within an hour and said it was just a temporary fix. Is there any way I can fight this?
Asked on July 20, 2018 under Real Estate Law, California
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 3 years ago | Contributor
"Fight it"? You can't fight owing them something, not based on what you describe. You intentionally cut the cord and removed the box; even if you were not aware that it was in use and didn't mean any harm, this was still a deliberate action you took which damaged their property. You are therefore liable, since your intentions are irrelevant to liability.
They can only sue you for the cost to repair the damage: if the cost is less than $3,000, they can only get what they can prove is the cost. So you could refuse to pay, see if they sue you, and then in the lawsuit, they'd have to prove the cost. If they can only prove a lesser cost to repair or correct the situation, that's all they can get--though if they can show that it costs $3k to fix, they could get that amount from you.
Your best bet may be trying to negotiate a lesser amount to pay and/or payment terms (e.g. payment over time) you can afford. If you can, get the agreement in writing before you pay anything.